Updated Post: COVID-19: Mono Becomes California’s Most Highly Infected County per Capita

In addition to the excellent article submitted by Avo Nesesian, Sierra Wave was given permission to post the following link to another excellent article  on the same topic by journalist/writer Monica Prelle:

The coronavirus may hit ski towns harder than urban areas.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Just over two weeks ago Mammoth Mountain Ski Area closed indefinitely. The announcement, which a time traveler from a few months ago might not believe, came as a surprise to skiers who live in ski bum bliss and a relief to residents who pay attention to the news.

Mono County now has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest per capita COVID-19 rate in California, according to the National COVID-19 Interactive Map.

Within the last week, four patients became critically ill and at least two were transferred to Reno. The increase in severe COVID-19 cases suggests that a “crushing wave of very sick people is coming soon,” Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Boo said. “The reality is extremely alarming.”… (Click on link in title of article to be taken to complete article.)

Original Article Submitted by Avo Nersesian Geography Teacher at Pierce College Below:


It may come as no surprise that Mono county is a tourist destination, with its central hub and economic lifesource, the town of Mammoth Lakes, consistently swelling to four or five times its local population throughout their skiing season. That all came to a screeching halt when Mammoth Mountain Ski Area officially announced on Sunday March 15th that it would be closing all operations.

Six days later, on March 21st we received news of Mono county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. Since then, 5 more cases have been recorded, one of whom is in critical condition at Reno’s Renown Hospital. (Update: 13 positive cases as of Sunday, March 29)

Per Governor’s order, the entire state of California, including of course Mono county, has been on complete lock-down since March 19th, and according to the Mono County Health Department, “The accelerating numbers of recognized and suspected infections demonstrates more clearly than ever that we have an epidemic in the Mammoth area.”

What we haven’t really heard is that Mono county leads the state in number of cases per capita, with now 6 confirmed cases (3/29: 13 cases reported) for its meager population of 14,000, not even enough people to fill a Manhattan block. Moreover, remember that the number of confirmed cases is nowhere near the number of actual cases; labs are overwhelmed and testing is sorely lacking, so not everybody containing the virus has been tested for it. For now, testing has been limited to those symptomatic individuals in need of care.

You might be wondering why this tiny frontier town leads the state in cases per capita. One thing to consider is just that: its tiny population. The Eastern Sierra region of California hosts the lowest population densities in the entire state, due chiefly to the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada (the tallest mountain range in the lower 48 states), effectively cutting the state in half, limiting travel east-west. To this day, during winter months this mighty mountain chain is impassible east-west for some 300 miles.

Now, as previously stated, Mono county is also a tourist destination. So, instead of its tiny isolated population acting as a safeguard against contagions, it becomes a vulnerability. Year round, hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists roll through highway 395 on a daily basis, coming from all corners of the state and the country at large. Many more arrive through the air via Mammoth Yosemite Airport, the region’s main flight ground. United Airlines, the airport’s sole public liner, did not cease flights from Denver and San Francisco until March 20th, and still continues to offer daily flights to and from Los Angeles, three of the hardest hit cities in the country.

Steve Graves, Professor of Geography at CSUN and creator of the National COVID-19 Interactive Map says, “Tourism is probably a driver of the rates we see in Mono County.” An exceptionally low population density combined with ease of travel to and from highly infected areas could possibly help explain why Mono has become the state’s most highly infected county.

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26 Responses to Updated Post: COVID-19: Mono Becomes California’s Most Highly Infected County per Capita

  1. David Dennison April 5, 2020 at 3:26 pm #

    “How skiers became villains”
    I don’t think it’s so much “becoming villains”.
    Maybe it’s because SO MANY of them coming from big cities visiting small communities that happen to have mountains and snow,and always hanging around so many people,up close and personal on the slopes.
    And then when night time rolls around,all flocking into crowded taverns,bars and restaurants.
    Then comes the parties of large groups after closing time,at some rented condo,all hanging around and drinking until the wee hours of the morning.
    Next comes morning time,all crowding into a restaurant,all together( again ) for breakfast…and then back to the slopes,all together…. again. …and to do all over again for two,maybe three days and nights….maybe longer.

  2. Denise April 4, 2020 at 7:16 pm #

    As an owner of a new-to-us place in Mammoth, we have been completely discouraged from visiting the area by the management of our rental agency. Expressly for the safety and well-being of full-time residents and to preserve your resources. I am sorry others are not doing the same. And to Lisa, we refunded all fees to any renters booked with us. I am hearing horror stories about the lack of empathy by the VBRO platform during the crisis. Stay safe Mammoth friends.

  3. David Dennison April 3, 2020 at 7:05 pm #

    Do you really believe,listen to and heed the advise and “orders” of ANY of those speaking at those daily white house news conferences we see,before or now ?
    Not me,,,when I want or need advise,I listen to the real doctors that don’t seem to have a political agenda,or those being directed to the podium to speak,and if the person that claims to “know more than the doctors” happens to disagree with any of them,they magically disappear ( or get “fired” ) for a day or two from the group of experts..
    Nope,when I want information I can believe and maybe follow,it’s not going to be coming from Jared Kushner and his family,baseball hall of famer Alex Rodriquez, or the CEO of “Mr.Pillow” fame I want to be getting it from.

    • Donna April 11, 2020 at 1:35 am #

      Dr. Fauci can jump off a cliff and take Dr. Brix with him. I’d suggest Yosemite but it’s closed.

  4. MTNBOY April 3, 2020 at 5:04 pm #

    “This is not a major threat for the people in United States, and this is not something the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about” – Dr. Fauci to @gregkellyusa, Jan 21, 2020

    Things can change quickly.

  5. Donna April 2, 2020 at 12:17 pm #

    Out of town ppl need to look at it from this point. In our small county that borders Mono County we have one hospital and approximately 10 ventilators. We too, have a large population of elderly that are our counties first priority. These residents will be considered over out of area people who would not be our priority. Stay home where your medical needs stand a better chance of being addressed if you were to contract virus.

    • Mono Person April 4, 2020 at 6:46 am #

      How many people with corona is in your hospital? Because there is NOT ONE case in Mammoths Hospital – calm down…

    • sugarmags April 4, 2020 at 7:27 am #

      why would Mono and Inyo County residents travel to your county?

      • Donna April 11, 2020 at 1:27 am #

        That’s a question that would be best answered by Tuolumne County’s most recent and 3rd tested positive for Coronavirus. A 34 yr old male from Los Angles. All tested positives have been from out of area individuals. As to why or what this person was doing here I do not have that answer. Parks, recreational activities, lodging and dining have been pretty much closed down.

        I do know we get a large population of out of towner’s visiting Yosemite that encompasses 4 counties of which Mono and Tuolumne account for 2. Yosemite was closed weeks ago so I have no idea why anyone would be making that their destination.

  6. David Dennison April 2, 2020 at 7:42 am #

    I’m sure many of us have gone to other areas,shopping,maybe visiting or checking on relatives out of town.Even some just going for an out of town drive.
    But it seems,what is upsetting some up here,I doubt very many have gone into other areas and towns,especially the little towns with their trailers and 5th wheels setting up shop in the nearby hills and hoping it will mean they can avoid their big cities with lots of positive covid-19 cases and “wait it out” for as long as it takes. And what rubs some people the wrong way,some saying and posting on other sites how they’ll be able to avoid the rules and getting closed restaurants,motels,even campgrounds opened up for them if they flash enough cash at the hosts or owners,which is a ridiculous thing to say or think.
    In the little town I live in up here,many people that have arrived from other places,many seem to have a different mind set than most locals do now.Large groups of 5 or 7 people going into the stores or markets to purchase their food and firewood.Some at the local lake on the small handicapped pier fishing in a group of about 9 or 10 the other day.
    If this pandemic finds it’s way up here in a big way,where we have a large population of senior citizens,it’ll be a total disaster for our small communities and their little hospitals with a minimal amount of doctors.

  7. Sasha March 30, 2020 at 6:55 pm #

    So all of your residents of Eastern Sierra just stayed there and didn’t leave?
    None of you have traveled at all? No one went to Hawaii last month? To Los Angeles? Orange County?
    I know some who did, they put it on their Instagrams.
    And for those travelers who are angry that expensive vacations are not refundable, you can purchase travel insurance for these situations.

    • Lisa Del Mar, CA April 2, 2020 at 1:15 pm #

      Sasha – some travel insurance companies exclude pandemics and epidemics as reasons for cancelling trips because said reasons are hard to assess. Travel insurance covers very specific things, where risk is able to be assessed. So the cost of a trip may not be covered; however, if one gets sick and requires medical transport during a trip, these are items that an assessment of risk can be calculated and are generally covered. There is a CFAR provision that folks can pay for that adds roughly 50% to an insurance policy which is “Cover for Any Reason.” And, there are many various stipulations, like one sometimes must purchase only 21 days out from the trip and other mitigating criteria that lessons a insurance company from having to pay a claim for unseen circumstances — like COVID-19, etc. So, with VRBO – most have a 60 day cancellation window and CFAR would not apply. Be kind and understanding in these stressful times, trying to single folks out may only end u stressing you out — hope this BRIEF explanation of travel insurance helps you to better unstained what millions of people are up against losing very hard earned money.

  8. Lisa Del Mar, CA March 30, 2020 at 6:10 am #

    Charles James – By reading your articles and the Los Angeles Times along with watching national broadcasting news, my two friends and I decided on March 12 not to travel to Mammoth Lakes for our annual snow trip with our three golden retrievers. Unfortunately, we booked with VRBO not Airbnb. Our cost to book 5 days and 4 nights (March 30 – April 3) in Mammoth Lakes is $1954.20. VRBO wrote on their website that they will refund their administrative fee to all travelers, but everything else is up to the homeowner — they are not getting involved! Our owner has stopped communicating and only refunded the cleaning fee of $175, not even the pet fee of $450 ($150 fee per dog). If people are not getting their money back from booking their rentals, they perhaps are chancing it and traveling to Mono County putting all the local residents and businesses at an even higher risk of COVID-19 cases per capita. I am truly sad that visitors are not staying home and not keeping all of you folks at the place we love to holiday — Mammoth Lakes — safe and secure and able to access food, healthcare and needed medical supplies. Please do an article on short-term rental owners not refunding travelers’ money during the COVID-19 pandemic and the direct health risk to Mono County because folks not getting their money back are still making the trek to Mammoth Lakes and other destinations in Mono County.

  9. SteveO March 29, 2020 at 6:11 pm #

    Is Mammoth Lakes open for business. Can I quarantine in my tent, like they do in Los Angeles?

  10. Donna March 29, 2020 at 11:06 am #

    We had a woman and so far the only tested and known woman from Mono who went to our Hospital in Sonora. She tested positive. She has since been released. She also was traveling with a companion. People were wondering why she did not go to her own local hospital? Please ppl stay in your own communities and go to your own hospitals.

    • sugarmags April 4, 2020 at 7:24 am #

      what a tool you are. You are suggesting that someone drove 5 hours, through Nevada, passing hospitals and medical care in Gardnerville/Minden, just to go to your podunk hospital in Sonora!
      God, I hope you don’t work at the hospital there, because that would not be a good sign for the brain power there.
      Did you consider that perhaps, the people lost their jobs and their housing here when the mountain closed and were in the process of returning to wherever it is they live in the off season???
      And for the 9 of you that so far gave this post thumbs up….do you have working brains????

      • Donna April 11, 2020 at 1:31 am #

        No need for insults and apparently many like our podunk community because they keep coming.

  11. Lisa March 29, 2020 at 6:35 am #

    Yes Charles James! I think you all do an amazing job. I use google mail alerts for anything Mammoth, Mono, Bishop and Inyo and it generally comes from Sierra Wave News. I have always found it to be accurate and informative as front line local reporting. Thank you and God Bless. Lisa

  12. Jean March 28, 2020 at 5:15 pm #

    Please do responsible reporting ! I find this article not only inaccurate but I find it irresponsible . It is creating panic when we should have facts and informative information.
    As for flights into Mammoth after the shelter at home directive – most of those flights where empty/canceled or bringing Mammoth residences home!
    Not bringing tourist to Mammoth a town that is closed!
    As for Mono County to be the most highly Infected county per Capita – FALSE!! Check out the John Hopkins website – Blaine county Idaho for example-PLEASE DO NOT ADD TO THE PANIC BE RESPONSIBLE AND REPORT ACCURATELY

    • Charles James March 29, 2020 at 5:51 am #

      It would be “irresponsible” for us to not report the “facts” on this important story. We’re not the first, nor the last news media outlet that takes note of the facts and allows its readers, listeners, or viewers to make up their own minds on what to make of them.

      The following is from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times article, Nearing overload in coronavirus pandemic, Mono County sheriff has a message: Stay out:

      Although the county is still in single digits on cases, she said, that number translates to the highest per capita rate in the state — nearly double that of San Francisco, the next highest. “If you factor in the fact that all of the cases are in the Town of Mammoth Lakes, population [about] 8,000, the rate is more than triple,” Braun said.

      Please consider taking time to read the L.A. Times article.

      BTW, thank you for mentioning the John Hopkins University and Hospital website. It is an excellent resource for information on COVID-19 and tracking the virus.

      We will continue to be a responsible local news outlet and report the facts as we come to know them.

    • Loretta Splitair March 29, 2020 at 7:31 am #

      Jean, please read harder

      > California’s Most Highly Infected County per Capita

  13. Mono Person March 28, 2020 at 2:39 pm #

    If it bleeds, it leads…

    • Mono Person April 1, 2020 at 6:41 am #

      So Alpine is now higher than Mono, with their 1 case….perspective….

      • Charles James April 1, 2020 at 1:48 pm #

        Exactly! It’s a numbers game as pointed out in both of the articles that we posted. Small numbers don’t always lend themselves to much in the way of enlightenment. It’s more of a talking point than a useful fact.

  14. Bob Bishop March 28, 2020 at 9:53 am #

    United still offers flights but not one has landed in at least two weeks!



  1. COVID 19: How Skiers Became Villains | The Brave Ski Mom - April 5, 2020

    […] Mono County, California, home of Mammoth Mountain has one of the highest infection rates in the Gold…. It goes on and on.  […]


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