If visitors to the region from metropolitan New York — be they second-home owners or people renting from Airbnb’s — hadn’t gotten the message before, they have received it quickly in the last couple of days.
Warren, Washington, Essex and Saratoga counties have issued requests for those people to self-quarantine for 14 days because of the coronavirus pandemic. In between those counties doing so, officials from the White House offered the same thought in their daily press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
According to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, about 60 percent of the new cases in the country were in the metropolitan New York area — which includes the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, the lower and mid-Hudson Valley, north and central New Jersey as well as a few counties in Connecticut and Pennsylvania — where the infection rate was eight to 10 times greater than other parts of the country.
Vice President Mike Pence told people who have traveled from there to monitor their temperature, be sensitive to symptoms and self-isolate for 14 days.
Local officials and businesses have seen a definite increase in visitors from the metropolitan area they don’t normally see until weekends in the late spring or summer.
Warren County, which issued its request Wednesday afternoon, joined the other counties in asking property owners to take short-term rentals off sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Warren County stated in its release that it had reports of many people from the New York City area booking short-term rentals in recent days.
Warren County Public Health Director Ginelle Jones said her department would like to educate those who’ve recently arrived.
“We would like to touch base with them to provide information about our local situation and share information about local resources,” Jones said in the release.
“Absolutely, it’s happening, a lot of our second-home owners in the area are here now,” said Andrea Hogan, Johnsburg town supervisor. “Johnsburg is a bit unlike other communities around us in that we are a winter destination, but we’re seeing them a little earlier than summer and later for the ski season, and not usually in the middle of the week.”
Hogan said the town has touched base “with a number” of those metropolitan people.
“We explained that in our small community, there are limited medical resources and to please keep practicing social distancing, but so long as they do that, we’re happy to have them stay in our community,” Hogan said.
“They’re already here,” said Gina Mintzer, president of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, during a conference call with elected officials on Tuesday to talk about the impact of the coronavirus.
“It’s not that we don’t like them and want them, and they are a big part of communities. At this time of year, we’re not ready for it,” she said.
Sen. Betty Little, who was also on the call, said she had concerns.
“If people come up and everyone starts getting really sick up here, it will really tax our health care system,” she said.
Little, R-Queensbury, suggested that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should do something similar to what Florida’s governor has done and ask them to self-quarantine for seven to 14 days when they arrive.
Before Warren County took its official position, Craig Leggett, Chester town supervisor, released a statement asking seasonal residents and those who have recently traveled to isolate themselves for 14 days.
“NY State has the most cases of COVID-19 in the East,” Leggett wrote. “Warren County has only one confirmed case. We have the ability to stay clean and healthy if WE ALL USE PRECAUTION!”
Leggett said the Tops supermarket in Chestertown has seen an increase in business from metropolitan visitors to supply their houses. A store manager in Schroon Lake, who didn’t wish to be named, confirmed that also was the case in that community.
Robert Blais, the mayor of the village of Lake George, said he knows of “a few” second-home owners from the metropolitan area who have chosen to stay in Lake George.
“I have been in contact with at least two folks,” Blais said, “and they have been self-quarantining. They all understand the breadth of this.”
Washington County’s chairman of the board, Samuel Hall, called upon visitors, weekenders, second-home owners and short-term rental owners to stop visiting the county during the pandemic.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Washington County had eight confirmed cases of coronavirus, including one from a non-county resident thinking the county would provide better access to testing.
“Washington County has NO hospitals and few health care providers,” Hall said in the statement. “Those providers we do have are overwhelmed by the current needs of its residents. Additional burdens upon the county’s health care providers will strain our already taxed resources.”
In a release Tuesday afternoon, Shaun Gilliland, the chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, noted that the county had four cases of COVID-19, none of which originated from within the county.
“However,” Gilliland wrote, “a number of exposures will increase with the movement of non-residents into our area from other parts of the state and country, which will result in an inordinate strain upon the resources of public health, first responders, health care providers, our hospitals and other government personnel.”
Gilliland said Essex County’s few hospitals aren’t capable of handling an increased number of patients.
In Hamilton County, Long Lake Supervisor Clay Arsenault didn’t have a comment on the matter at this time, though he did say he was having discussions with the county about the issue.
More than 80 percent of Hamilton County’s homes are seasonal, giving it the largest percentage of second-home owners in the nation.
Reporter Michael Goot and Projects Editor Will Doolittle contributed to this story.
Follow Will Springstead on Twitter @WSpringsteadPSV.
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