In what's likely to be a futile effort to discourage people from coming to Lake Tahoe from outside the area this summer, some residents of South Lake Tahoe are planning a demonstration Friday afternoon.
Full-time residents of the area say that too many tourists are arriving at the lake and not respecting public-health ordinances requiring masks, etc. As ABC 7 reports, a group plans to protest today out on Highway 50, which is the main road in and out of South Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area.
As the Tahoe Daily Tribune reports, protests are planned at five more locations in the North Lake region at 9 a.m. on Sunday — in Truckee, Tahoe City, Meyers, Incline Village and Kings Beach. Residents are protesting both the risks presented by tourists bringing in the coronavirus, and the disrespect tourists are showing in leaving litter on beaches around the lake this summer.
The Tahoe region has been on edge since the spring, with counties at the north and south ends of the lake nervous about their limited hospital bed capacity — being rural regions with tourist economies, and relatively low full-time populations. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in the south end, in El Dorado County, this summer, though county data shows some sign of that slowing down in August. The county was averaging around 20 new cases per day in July, with a peak of 31 new cases on July 14, and on Thursday they recorded only nine new cases — with five of those around South Lake Tahoe.
Overall, El Dorado County has only seen 802 total confirmed COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with another 650 cases listed as "likely recovered" but never lab-confirmed. Only two COVID-related deaths have occurred in the county thus far.
And there have been mixed messages all along — as there have been elsewhere in the state and country — when it comes to tourism and the reopening of businesses. On Memorial Day weekend, South Lake Tahoe officials were threatening to fine tourists who showed up in the area against public health orders, only to reverse those orders and welcome tourists two weeks later. The peak in COVID cases in the county last month arrived almost exactly one month after that reopening of the county for tourism — which occurred with a web page devoted to all the wineries and hotels that were open for business. Dine-in restaurants, breweries, and more reopened on June 12, only to close again on July 13 on orders from the governor — though outdoor dining remains allowed.
As ABC 7 reported three weeks ago, South Lake Tahoe residents and officials were disturbed to see videos on social media of three busloads of teens — unmasked, and not observing any distancing — arriving one weekend at an area park. According to one of the teens, this was a church outing that had come to the area from Redwood City, though that is unconfirmed. One witness said he believed the group was about 180 kids.
Similarly, in the Truckee area at the north end of the lake, a small, early outbreak of COVID-19 in April spooked area businesses and residents to the point that when the county reopened indoor dining, Truckee restaurants stuck to takeout for an extra few weeks, and they are still only open for outdoor service. Nevada County, where Truckee is located, has recorded only 362 COVID cases to date, and one death. The cases escalated considerably in July, and have been almost evenly split between the eastern part of the county, where the towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley are located, and the western end, where Truckee is located.
This all stands in contrast to Washoe County, Nevada, just over the state line, which is home to Reno, and where COVID has been spreading more widely in recent months. As the Reno Gazette-Journal reports, the county recorded 155 new cases in just he last day alone, and the county has seen 6,117 recorded cases to date.
Photo: Julieanne Benson