Lake Tahoe officials discourage tourism during stay-at-home order

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- One of California’s top industries is being hit hard by the stay-at-home order issued by public health officials.

That includes Lake Tahoe, which is an international destination but also a local getaway.

The lure of Lake Tahoe has never been greater for those who live within driving distance. It seems like the perfect place to get away from the confinement of staying at home.

But El Dorado County health officials sent out a clarification of the rules, emphasizing that recreation and tourism is not an essential function no matter how safe people promise to be.

“But when you multiply that by all the people thinking the same way, that can create a problem,” said El Dorado County Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams.

El Dorado and Placer counties issued a clarification of the rules. 

Rental properties should not stay open except to handle emergency housing for first responders, health workers or the homeless. 

There is also a concern that recreational emergencies will distract first responders from dealing with the virus.

“They were taking a call yesterday from someone who had gotten lost hiking,” Dr. Williams told FOX40. “They need to be available for COVID-19 response and those things are distracting from that.”

Placer County covers North Lake Tahoe, a small, permanent community that has limited medical capabilities.

“Were these other travelers from other areas were to become ill with COVID-19 it would quickly overwhelm the very small hospital,” said Placer County Public Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson.

There is a reason traveling far away from home is discouraged, even if people are going to their own vacation homes.

“They do have to stop somewhere along the way to use the bathroom, to get food, and those are additional exposures,” Dr. Sisson told FOX40.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has stopped advertising and took the drastic step of advising people not to visit.

They told FOX40 that most businesses, like hotels, motels and restaurants, began shutting down even before the statewide isolation orders were in place.

Many Lake Tahoe residents have said they would rather sacrifice some of the 2 billion in tourism dollars to keep their community safe.

Public health officers in El Dorado and Placer counties are urging valley residents to take advantage of hiking, biking and recreational activities a little closer to home, at least for the duration of the emergency.

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