Unfortunately, the clarification by the public health officer does not change the facts on the ground; that being that there may well be hundreds–if not thousands–of visitors planning to come up to the Eastern Sierra during the Memorial Day Weekend or the start of the Summer season in June regardless of the Governor’s Stay At Home Order or whether they have accommodations. Many of those commenting on social media appear ready to stay in tents, campers or RVs either in private campgrounds, or by dispersed camping, which during the fire season, brings its own dangers.
Most of those from out of the area planning to come to the Eastern Sierra in the next few weeks do not perceive themselves to be a public health or safety hazard or threat either through willful ignorance, indifference or disregard for the health and safety of others. As noted in a recent Los Angeles Times article, Pulling dollar bills of the wall to keep going in rural California, Inyo County assistant county administrator, Leslie Chapman, said, “We haven’t had a new case reported in 31 days, but when the economy reopens, our tourists will be coming from coronavirus hot spots.”
The impending annual influx of tourists from coronavirus hot spots to the Eastern Sierra is concerning, yet it’s going to happen regardless of federal, state or county orders to the contrary. Will it undermine all the efforts made in Inyo and Mono counties to “contain” the spread of COVID-19? All the state and local officials, and the local communities can do is hope that it doesn’t.
Enforcement is only effective if it has teeth, the threat of which is lacking in the public health orders that have largely depended on public willingness to cooperate and comply. Dealing with large numbers of visitors that simply do not care or choose to ignore the health warnings, especially in rural areas with small enforcement capacity, may prove overwhelming.
The unsettled situation leaves many local residents and business owners in a quandary. Residents must rely on law enforcement agencies to take appropriate enforcement actions to protect their health and safety; while closed businesses, starved for income over the past two months, and open only in a limited way, will be reluctant to not serve customers from out of the area, much less become the ones expected to enforce local health orders. Hopefully those in authority will be able to clarify just how they intend to deal with the situation, if they have one.
HEALTH OFFICER ISSUES ORDER CLARIFYING RECREATIONAL TRAVEL AND LODGING WITHIN THE TOWN OF MAMMOTH LAKES AND UNINCORPORATED MONO COUNTY