As the rich have rushed to escape to their luxury retreats, local officials are reporting a disproportionate rise in Covid-19 cases and getting increasingly angry and worried about cases overwhelming small local hospitals.

In Ketchum, Idaho, the nearest city to the luxurious Sun Valley ski resort, Mayor Neil Bradshaw warned that the region was not the a place for a “virus vacation”.

In last year’s ski season, Sun Valley had 426,500 skier days. For decades, it has been a hotspot for jet-setting celebrities and billionaires including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Zuckerberg, Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood. As of Thursday, there were 351 confirmed cases in its county, which is home to only 22,000 people.


“We must discourage friends and visitors from coming to town,” Bradshaw wrote in a column for the Idaho Mountain Express. “For a town used to welcoming visitors, that is hard to do, but we must reduce the number of people visiting our area.”

Sun Valley is in Blaine county, which is now host to nearly half the statewide total of cases. The outbreak there has overwhelmed the region’s only hospital, which has one ventilator and was partially shut down after several of its doctors were quarantined.

What is happening in Idaho is reflective of a national trend. Rural counties with recreation economies show higher coronavirus infection rates, according to an analysis by the rural news site Daily Yonder, with rates that are more than three times higher than those of rural counties with other kinds of economies.

An analysis in the Salt Lake Tribune showed that these areas had some of the highest cases per capita in the country, rivaled only by New York City and New Orleans.

The two rural recreation counties with the most cases in late March were home to the popular ski resort spots Vail, Colorado. and Park City, Utah.

A cluster of cases in Vail has now been tied to cases in Mexico, after 400 people, including business executives, took two chartered flights to visit the resort from Guadalajara. At least three high-profile executives tested positive after returning from Vail.

In Park City, home to the Utah’s largest ski resort, city leaders urged people to stay away.

The town, which helps draw more than 4 million skiers to Utah each year, was the first place in Utah to see community spread of coronavirus and has had an especially high concentration of cases.

Park City is in Summit county and its health director, Rich Bullough, said the first case in the county was a visitor and said the region’s high rate of cases was “absolutely” related to tourism.

New York City residents fleeing the coronavirus for upstate getaways and homes in the summer hotspots on Long Island are also angering residents. “Put the National Guard right at the damn Hudson River or other points, nobody crosses that line,” wrote one upstate New York commenter. “Think about our families too, STAY DOWN THERE.”

The Hamptons, the glitzy seaside New York community where Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and a host of Wall Street bankers have summer homes, has seen its population surge in the wake of the pandemic. The village of Southampton has seen its population soar in recent weeks from 60,000 to 100,000.

Tourism spots in warmer climates have also seen coronavirus take a toll on the economy.

Palm Beach county in Florida now has the highest death rate from Covid 19 in the state, 27 out of 144 deaths across the state so far. Palm Beach is home to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Jimmy Buffett and Rod Stewart are among its famous residents.

Although it is too early to say why the spikes in cases occurred, the increase in visitors is likely to be a factor.

Governor Ron DeSantis pinned the Florida cases on international visitors and initially planned to deploy Florida’s resources there, before issuing a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday.

In Ketchum, Idaho, ER doctor Brent Russell said every day at work he used to see people traveling from Seattle, San Francisco and Washington DC.

“Every week there’s people from those places,” Russell told the Idaho Statesman. “Most likely someone from an urban area or multiple people from urban areas came here and they just set it off.”

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