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PSA: Mountain Towns are NOT Safe Havens During COVID-19

Sorry folks, this is not a time for a roadtrip. Wikipedia Photo.

There seems to be this strange perception that mountain towns are safe in the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis. Safe to whom? Most of these small communities have limited medical resources, in fact, the town of Jackson, Wyoming only has 10 ventilators. All it takes is one asymptomatic person with the virus to potentially overload an already tiny medical center.

Does this situation sound particularly safe to an immunocompromised 65-year-old who lives here?

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Mountain towns all throughout the U.S. are making the same plea to visitors: Please stay home. Visit Mammoth Lakes recently released a statement asking anyone who wasn’t a primary resident of the area to stay away temporarily. And while these statements might feel blunt to visitors, please understand that they’re hard to make. Small communities are largely driven by tourism. Cutting off this the essential source of revenue equates to a catastrophic loss of hotel, restaurant, and other customer service jobs. We’re already seeing this play out in Jackson with a large portion of the community currently unemployed. Rather than add stress to our already spread thin resources, consider making a donation to our local food bank.

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I decided not to post about COVID-19 because, well, my anxiety is through the roof. Folks who know me well know that I’m low-key always thinking about the apocalypse. I blame my young obsession with dystopian novels. But I digress, because I have something important to say. Please stay home. Do not hit the road. I’ve seen a lot of chatter about “now is a great time for a road trip to the desert or national parks!” and the thing is: it isn’t. Yes, hanging out in the sprawling expanse of sandstone and sage sounds like an idyllic way to spend your self-quarantine, but it’s incredibly selfish. The small, rural communities that are the gateways to our favorite outdoor spots are NOT prepared for a spread of this virus. Is your little road trip getaway more important than the health of a community without easy access to health services? Spoiler alert: it’s not. I recently learned that Moab’s hospital has THREE ventilators, intended for transportation to larger hospitals (all about 5 hours away). Is your climbing trip more important than preventing a health crisis in a small town? Unless you’ve been tested negative for coronavirus, you could be carrying it and not even know. Do you want to be responsible for spreading the virus to a vulnerable community? So do the un-fun thing and stay home. I’ve already cancelled speaking engagements, personal trips, filming the pilot episode of a new series I am hosting, and a trip to plan a new podcast. I’m losing income, opportunity, and quite a bit of joy. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s the right thing to do. Do the right thing. Stay home, wash ya damn hands, share resources with neighbors, take breaks from social media, use your time off productively, and take care of your community members who are hurting through all this. And of course, get fresh air when you can do so responsibly. Trails still seem to be a good place to practice social distancing and recharge your burnt out brain. But be so, so conscious of where you could be spreading. Don’t let fear take control, but do think critically and act smartly. It’s all about community y’all, protect yours.

A post shared by Katie Boué (@katieboue) on

Instead of going on an epic road trip right now, use your time at home to plan a vacation when the pandemic settles down. All these communities would love your business—just not right now. 

Here is the little wrinkle I see in these posts. Yes!!! I have scolded AT skinners, climbers & hikers for trying to summit closed ski areas & it is incredibly irresponsible to place EMS & the hospitals at risk for your recreation purposes at the moment. I have chosen not to go myself.

However, I’m equally uncomfortable with “locals” calling out second home owners from Tahoe to Killington for basically living in THEIR houses during this crisis. Many ski towns / areas would not survive without outside, weekend funding - so stop being a local elitist & perhaps just consider everyone in this time.

Last I checked New York was not overburdened with a surplus of ventilators.

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