Tahoe is back in (tourism) business — with appropriate guidelines in place, of course.
June 12 signifies a statewide allowance for businesses and activities not already allowed to reopen to become publicly accessible again. The California Department of Public Health announced that with COVID-19 positivity and related hospitalization numbers remaining in a stable range, county health officers can continue to guide their jurisdictions through the Resilience Roadmap if they’ve submitted attestations of readiness.
Placer, Nevada, and El Dorado counties are happy to oblige, having met such objectives as average number of COVID-19 tests per day (as of publication date, Nevada is at 62.7 per day per 100,000 people; Placer, 90.1; and El Dorado, 63.2) and manageable numbers of the following:
- Testing positivity: Counties should have less than 25 positive cases per 100,000 people within a two-week period and testing positivity is under 8% across a seven-day period.
- Hospitalization: The percentage change over a three-day period of hospitalized COVID-19 patients must be less than 10%.
- ICU bed availability: Percentage of ICU beds available can’t drop below 20% availability.
Moving into stage three is a big moment for Truckee/North Tahoe in particular, as the region’s economy relies heavily on visitor spending and the ban on leisure lodging was limiting non-locals to those within a day-drive. In addition to the reopening of hotels, other higher risk environments able to open with county health officer go-ahead include:
- Campgrounds, RV parks, and outdoor recreation
- Cardrooms, satellite wagering facilities, and racetracks
- Family entertainment centers
- Restaurants, bars, and wineries
- Fitness facilities
- Museums, galleries, zoos, and aquariums
Short-term rentals, too, are allowed to reopen under the lodging umbrella, per statewide industry guidance.
On a California level (as opposed to counties with attestations for readiness), schools, school-based programs, day camps, casinos operated by sovereign tribal nations, media (TV, music, movies) production, and professional sports received reopening guidance.
The June 5 announcement that lodging could reopen was a happy surprise for Eli Covell, general manager of Granlibakken, who’d heard earlier in the week that hotels would be pushed to stage four of the reopening. But his team is prepared to open up on June 12, Covell told Moonshine, equipped with PPE packages for guests, hand sanitizer stations throughout the resort, and no back-to-back bookings of rooms (to allow for extensive cleaning in between guests).
Granlibakken Tahoe, which normally hosts large conferences and weddings, lost over $5 million in cancellations since the state-wide stay-at-home order was instated. That played a factor in the layoff of over 140 staff members — most of which, Covell said, they’ve been able to hire back. While large conferences are likely a ways off, transient occupancy has picked up for the Tahoe City destination.
“Our projections are that we’re going to see about 70% of our normal business run rate through the summer,” he explained. “We’re hoping, we’re optimistic, but as everyone knows, everything’s changing daily. From what we’re guesstimating … by January of ‘21, the group sales should start to get back to a normal rate. Ideally, we’re able to get back on track to normal group bookings, conferences, weddings, and big groups by next year.”
Placer and Nevada counties’ health officers are the ones in charge of granting permission locally, and both Placer County health officer and public health director Dr. Aimee Sisson, and Nevada County health officer Dr. Ken Cutler have okayed the movement forward.
Though Placer County remains below the threshold for the aforementioned county readiness, COVID-19 cases have increased since the beginning of June, with 19 new cases alone on June 4 (the largest single-day amount yet).
“We knew before reopening began that cases of COVID-19 would increase as the county reopened. We made clear in our attestation in May that our goals were to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system and to protect vulnerable populations,” said Sisson in a recent press release. “My team will watch the case-rate metric closely in the coming days and weeks, as it is cause for concern.”
If numbers start to pick up again, Sisson continued, she will work with the board of supervisors and the CDPH to identify and address what’s causing the increases.