Worries Rise as Vacationers from Pandemic Hotspots Travel to Popular Areas

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
May 28, 2020Updated: May 28, 2020

There are 44 lakes in Fulton County in Upstate New York and the vacation season means more people from the tri-state area will travel to the region, bringing possible asymptomatic carriers of the CCP virus⁠—a concern that other vacation spots and beaches share as the country starts reopening.

“Many people own lake houses and vacation houses in our county and some of them live within an hour from here, somewhere in New York City, Connecticut, or New Jersey and so they pay taxes and have an absolute right to go up and enjoy their vacation,” Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino told The Epoch Times.

“The governor has suggested and others have suggested, that when you come from the main area that you quarantine for 14 days. Now the concern I have is that most people come up to their summer places for three or four days [during the] weekend. And it’s not enough time to quarantine,” added Giardino.

Giardino’s said he can’t ask people not to come because they own the property and pay taxes and when they come to their summer or weekend homes, they go to the grocery stores, service stations, or small restaurants which have reopened.

“So people are getting pent up and want to get out so they may come early while their region is closed still, they’re not fully open. They’ll come up to ours which is starting to open now. Can I stop them as a sheriff? No. Would I try to stop them? No,” he said.

Vacation homes have been a persistent topic in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus debate. A research study last month suggested that rural counties with vacation homes were seeing an increase in outbreaks.

People enjoy the boardwalk during the Memorial Day holiday weekend
People enjoy the boardwalk during the Memorial Day holiday weekend amid the CCP virus pandemic in Ocean City, Md., on May 23, 2020. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

During the early spread of the virus in rural America, counties with seasonal homes showed a faster spread of the virus than rural communities without them,  Jessica Carson, a research assistant professor at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the study, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“This is consistent with anecdotal reports of hot spots in popular vacation locations as visitors, including some who are unknowingly infected, exit urban areas attempting to socially distance at second homes and seasonal rental properties,” said Carson in a statement earlier.

Carson studied 199 rural counties around the country where 25 percent of housing units belong to seasonal dwellers and found out that these communities had almost twice the number of cases per capita compared to those without them as of April 5.

However, an update on April 29 read, “case data through April 27, 2020, indicate that the gap between rural counties with higher and lower shares of seasonal housing has essentially closed.”

She later clarified to The Epoch Times that as the country reopens, this trend would most likely shift. “With more people transitioning out into public again, caseload patterns are bound to shift again, but it is early to tell exactly what this will look like,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
People walk along the shore at Jones Beach in Long Island, N.Y., on May 24, 2020. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

Debate Around Beaches

Beaches and lakes are becoming the first destinations as the country starts to reopen and desperate people start to emerge out of the lockdown—triggering political debates and new public health concerns.

Social media videos of people in Ocean City, Maryland, crowded on the boardwalk without protective masks raised a lot of eyebrows.

Intense public debate was raised after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo let cities and counties decide whether to open their beaches or not, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to keep city beaches closed.

Thus when Long Island leaders decided to open their beaches, fears that New York City residents would travel to the opened beaches and spread the CCP virus there arose, causing some counties in Long Island like Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau to open their beaches to residents only.

“Again, only Suffolk residents will be permitted to visit Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue Beach County Park beginning this Saturday to kick off Memorial Day weekend,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on May 20.

Epoch Times Photo
Lifeguards walk along Jones Beach on Long Island, N.Y., on May 24, 2020. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran had criticized De Blasio’s decision to close the city’s beaches until around mid-June. The Nassau legislature then started preparing a measure to ban New Yorkers from its beaches, Curran said on May 20.

In the Hamptons, authorities enforced monitoring for capacity on the beaches around Memorial Day. However, the influx of people from New York City is only continuing to increase, according to a realtor who has seen inquiries increase four times during the lockdown.

Joseph Kazickas of Rosehip Partners Real Estate told The Epoch Times that there’s increased demand these days from New York City, which is still under lockdown, for summer homes in the Hamptons, “and all of this activity started in March.”

“Traditionally, March and April are what we call kind of garbage months because they generally don’t run out at all. But this year, people started to rent in March or April in May,” said Kazickas, adding that in April, people rented out May and June and now people are looking for whatever is left.

“So the market has been very, very active … traffic to our website has quadrupled over last year’s levels,” he said adding he gets between 15 to 20 inquiries every day.

‘Just be Responsible’

Lake George in upstate New York had several measures in place to make sure safety measures remained everyone’s first priority during the Memorial Day celebrations.

The week before Memorial Day, concerns in the town were raised after a large crowd without face masks was seen and State Sen. Betty Little criticized people for not maintaining social distancing rules, according to North Country Public Radio.

“We are continuing to spread the word that masks are mandatory in NY when social distancing isn’t possible. This is crucial people follow this standard as asymptomatic people could spread the virus,” Amanda May Metzger, the Marketing Manager of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Metzger said the town saw about 40 percent of the crowds compared to a normal Memorial Day weekend after recently reopening in the first phase.

However, for Susan Roy, an immigration attorney who lives and practices in New Jersey, the issue of asymptomatic carriers traveling to holiday spots is more personal. Roy has lost two family members, two close friends, many friends’ parents, and several clients to the pandemic and she’s keeping away from the newly-opened crowded beaches and has no plan to visit one anytime soon.

As New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy increased the maximum size of outdoor gatherings to 25 on May 22, Roy told The Epoch Times that the country cannot stay under lockdown for too long and people are going to move around for holidays and they should “just be responsible.”

“You’re just protecting everybody, your own family, other people, families, friends, as long as people are willing to be responsible,” she said adding that the virus is “real” and “severe.”

Giardino expressed similar sentiments and said visitors have to be “mindful of the distance and cooperate.”

“So every day I get complaints about employees in delis not wearing masks and customers not social distancing,” he said, adding that visitors who often throng to delis, reopened restaurants, and gas stations should be considerate.