PARK CITY — Not long after the first case of COVID-19 hit Utah, Summit County, home to the international ski destination Park City, emerged as the state’s hotspot.
And almost a month later, the number of cases per capita in the northern Utah county still rivals some of the hardest hit areas of New York, even after officials enacted a sweeping stay-at-home order that restricted large gatherings and asked out-of-state travelers to stay away.
“It appears to be a fairly common phenomenon in some of the ski towns in the West. And we’re no different,” said Dr. Richard Bullough, Summit County health director. “The data really strongly supports that the first cases that we saw were all travel related.”
Although Bullough said there hasn’t been a travel-related COVID-19 case in Summit County for over a week, his office continues to get calls from concerned residents uneasy about people from across the country coming to wait out the pandemic in Park City.
“I’m really surprised with how many renters I got, probably around the same time Summit County closed,” said Elise St John, whose company St John’s Property Management serves 58 clients in the Park City area.
She said roughly half of her clients who own second homes are in town, which is about average — for a normal year.
“I can see why we’re the hotspot,” she said. “I had a renter coming in from New York, and I didn’t really want to tour the property with him. … They’re supposed to do that 14-day quarantine, but they don’t. It’s kind of crazy.”
St John, who has already had to cut hours for all of her employees, said turning away business would be almost unthinkable. The closure of Utah’s ski areas was a devastating blow to Park City’s real estate and property management industry, which only a month ago was a cornerstone of the resort community. But in the weeks since Park City regressed into a ghost town, St John said three property management companies have reached out, asking if she wanted to buy their clients.
“It was awful,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
As for the companies still admitting renters, St John said there’s a certain amount of guilt that now comes with doing business.
“I really don’t think people want to talk about it,” she told the Deseret News. “And I think it’s kind of weird that they don’t. I mean, this is our small town. It’s definitely something to be concerned about.”
A few miles west of Park City, one vacation hotspot took a big step to combat the potential risks of out-of-state travel.
On April 1, Alta Mayor Harris Sondak issued an emergency proclamation that mandated a 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state travelers upon arrival. Anyone seen violating the order could be charged with a class B misdemeanor.
“As far as I know I have not heard of any reports of a lack of compliance,” said Sondak, who stressed his intent was not