By Kayla Anderson
As of April 13, there have been over 500 cases of coronavirus in Washoe County resulting in at least 12 deaths. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has continued to mandate closures of recreational areas and prohibit group gatherings, but there’s still a gray area about whether it’s okay to still travel and stay in short term rentals.
North Lake Tahoe full time residents report neighborhoods full of vacation rentals, second homeowners and their friends despite orders from government officials to stay home, and grew increasing concerned as the nation went into a holiday weekend. In Incline Village, an unincorporated area of Washoe County, the General Improvement District took necessary steps to protect residents by locking the gates on its beaches and parking lots to keep people from congregating as well as closing its recreational venues, but the problem seems to be getting worse.
“Unfortunately, even after we asked visitors to reschedule their trips until COVID-19 is controlled, we have continued to experience an influx of people flocking to the area,” IVGID General Manager Indra Winquest stated in a press release issued April 11. “We are doing everything we can to protect our community, including closing all recreation and community service facilities, but need visitors and second homeowners to temporarily stay home in order to prevent a medical crisis.”
However, there are many people who are ignoring orders and continuing to flock to Lake Tahoe, causing stress, anxiety, and altercations with locals over the lack of resources in Tahoe’s small mountain towns.
Many second and STR homeowners, specifically in Lake Tahoe, are finding loopholes in the lackadaisically enforced order to keep their STR income stream, thus angering full time residents.
In a recent exchange between a North Lake Tahoe full time resident and STR owner who normally has her property listed on Vrbo, the resident asked the owner why new people arrived at her home on Easter Sunday. The owner responded that the new guests are staying long term and need a safe isolation residence. However, the owner did not respond when asked if she was collecting money from her new long-term guests.
And while local county officials, health districts, and governors are politely asking people to stay at home, visitors aren’t heeding their advice and thus spreading COVID-19 through rural areas.
The City of Truckee, located right off of Interstate 80 between Sacramento and Sparks, has become a new “hotspot” for the coronavirus, reporting 10 times more positive coronavirus cases per capita than the rest of the entire state of California.
There are currently 300-plus Short-Term Rental properties listed in the Reno/Sparks area on Airbnb, but many of them cannot be reserved in the months of April or through May. Airbnb released a policy on April 9 stating that any STR reservations made before March 14 with a check-in date between March 14-May 31 can be cancelled before their stay to receive a travel credit or refund. Likewise, there are 169 properties listed in VRBO for the Sparks area and its policy states that visitors who booked before March 13 that are planned between March 13-April 30 should get a travel credit valid for the next two years or a minimum 50 percent refund. Many Vrbo properties in Sparks are still currently accepting reservations.
On March 16 after local hotels, casinos, and businesses started closing, one Sparks Airbnb superhost said that he immediately started experiencing several cancellations due to the coronavirus.
“Pursuant to the order of our Governor to shelter in place and our County District Health officer that you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving here from out-of-state, we are asking all visitors to stay home and not risk bringing the virus to our mountain towns,” Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler stated in a press release. “Washoe County is at the beginning of the virus surge and our small hospital in Incline is not big enough to treat a large number of patients. Please stay home until we get the all clear from our State and Country leaders,” she adds.
Many Tahoe locals are now pleading to their governors to help close the major roadway arteries into Lake Tahoe to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Cutline: A sign hangs on a locked gate at an entrance to Ski Beach in Incline Village informing potential visitors of its closure.