B y PJ Ferguson

Washington County is urging visitors, weekenders, second-home owners and short-term rental owners to stay away during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent out by Washington County Board of Supervisors chairman Board Samuel Hall, he outlined the issues that the county faces by welcoming visitors.

Essex County issued a similar letter first, signaling Washington County to follow suit. The county has also been receiving calls about increased traffic in nearby lake towns, with community members noticing an “influx of people coming up now rather than late April or May,” according to county attorney and public information officer Roger Wickes.

“The virus doesn’t move itself,” said Wickes, “movement is the enemy.”

Despite being less densely populated than some other areas of New York, the message Washington County is attempting to send is that the virus is everywhere.

“Unfortunately, seeking refuge from the more populous areas will not protect you from this global pandemic,” Hall wrote.

He stated that one of Washington County’s eight confirmed positive cases stems from a non-county resident arriving thinking they “would receive better access to testing.”

Hall indicates in the letter that Washington County has zero hospitals and only a few healthcare providers, which are already overwhelmed by “the current needs of its residents.”

“Coming to Washington County will not result in faster or better testing, or care, than that available at one’s domicile,” Hall said. “In fact, the wait could actually be longer with resources being devoted downstate.”

Of the more than 37,000 positive cases in New York State, more than 21,000 of those cases are in the five boroughs of New York City. Additionally, almost 10,000 cases stem from Nassau and Westchester counties combined.

Hall is demanding property owners remove short-term rental listings from services such as AirBnB and VRBO, declaring them a violation of the Governor’s executive order banning non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason.

The county is also requesting seasonal residents to “remain where they are and not come to Washington County until the crisis has passed.”

“Only by working together can we limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep all of us save from this deadly threat,” said Hall.

The number of cases is expected to keep rising with Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing that the pandemic will reach its peak by the end of April.

While there are eight confirmed cases in Washington County, 102 individuals are currently under investigation.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting via teleconference on Wednesday, April 1 at 10 a.m. to discuss an update on county operations, audit committee process and other business that comes before the board.

 

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