California urbanites flee cities amid coronavirus, despite warnings and orders to stay put

An influx of nonresidents could overwhelm small healthcare systems in rural California

Mar.March 23, 2020 10:20 AM
Eric Garcetti
Eric Garcetti

Californian urbanites are fleeing their cities for the state’s rural communities over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, even though its counterproductive.

Some are renting properties in rural communities and others are going to their own vacation homes, pulling them off of listing sites like Airbnb. Their flight might cause more problems than it solves, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Public health officials worry that people could bring the virus with them from cities into rural areas with healthcare systems far less robust than the cities they leave, like L.A. and San Francisco.

Government officials are trying to stop people from leaving for these small towns. As part of his “Safer at Home” emergency order, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti last week barred people — under penalty of imprisonment or fines — from traveling to or from a vacation home outside the city.

The town of Mammoth Lakes near Yosemite National Park also asked nonresidents to stay out of the town for the foreseeable future.

But people continue to head for smaller communities. Property managers in the Joshua Tree area say that many of their short-term rentals are being rented for weeks and months at a time, according to The Times.

UC Merced professor Leroy Westerling warned that people “may be moving into a remote environment they don’t fully understand.”

Some vacation areas are prone to flooding, he said, and their healthcare systems aren’t ready for them.

“Personally,” he told The Times, “if I got sick, I’d rather be in San Francisco or Los Angeles.” [LAT]Dennis Lynch

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