Tahoe shutdown: Can Bay Space residents journey there?
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A surge in COVID-19 hospital stays in California’s Greater Sacramento region sparked a federal home stay order that went into effect Dec. 11 for a Lake Tahoe area that included a notice that vacation travel was there not take place – limited to at least January 1st.
Although local officials and tourism boards give clear instructions to potential travelers to stay out of the area, there remains a lot of confusion about what is and is not allowed for travelers in the Bay Area, many of whom booked hotel rooms in front of the hotel and Airbnb’s shutdown time or who look forward to skiing in ski resorts in the Tahoe area that stay open while staying at home.
Tahoe residents report that people are still traveling to the area, presumably to ski and recover in the mountains from a pandemic lifestyle that has lasted for more than 9 months.
If conditions in ICUs in the greater Sacramento area improve dramatically over the next few weeks, the area may reopen to tourists in time for the New Year. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about Tahoe’s shutdown.
When did the Tahoe stay home order start?
Thursday, December 10, 11:59 p.m. It is expected to take at least three weeks.
Who does it concern?
The greater Lake Tahoe area spans five counties, two of which are in Nevada. The order applies to the three California counties and affects residents of those counties and non-residents traveling to this region, which includes Truckee and South Lake Tahoe. Long-distance travel is discouraged by orders from California.
What is closed in Lake Tahoe?
If you stay at home, eating outside is prohibited. Retail stores can only be 20% full. Hair salons and barber shops, gyms, museums, zoos, aquariums, personal care services, wineries, bars, breweries, card rooms, live public sports, and family entertainment centers will be closed.
Non-essential travel to and from the Tahoe area is prohibited, except in cases where travelers book more than 14 days and are quarantined during that period, as per the state’s travel advisory. “To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Californians shouldn’t travel any significant distance and stay as close to their home as possible,” according to the state’s regional guidelines for staying at home.
How exactly is the travel order enforced?
So far it is unclear.
State guidelines recommend that people in affected areas drive no more than two or three hours from their homes.
A violation of the order can be punished as a criminal offense and a fine or “judicial sanctions” according to the guidelines of the state.
Authorities said it was virtually impossible to ban visitors to Lake Tahoe during the March protection. The city of South Lake Tahoe imposed a small number of fines of $ 1,000 on individual visitors who were lifted in the spring. Officials also said the statewide mask mandate could face fines of up to $ 500 for businesses and up to $ 100 for those who do not wear a mask in public.
What happens on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe?
Half of Lake Tahoe is in Nevada, which has less restrictive pandemic rules. South Lake Tahoe, forked by the state line, is currently particularly difficult for travelers to navigate.
According to a contract that runs through mid-January, Nevada allows casinos, arcades, theme parks, museums, and other facilities to operate at 25% capacity. Indoor and outdoor dining and public gatherings are also permitted – with some restrictions.
How does the order affect hotels?
Accommodation operators are only allowed to serve essential travelers – people traveling to work, medical needs, and critical infrastructure support. Communities around the lake, including Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, are requesting short-term property owners and property managers to cancel all existing reservations by January 1st.
Hotels and property managers have already started canceling reservations and calling guests. December and the Christmas holidays are a hugely popular time for tourism in Tahoe, and many accommodation providers told The Chronicle that the impact on their bottom line for 2020 would be devastating.
The effects of the mass cancellations will be felt across the community as local authorities rely on hotel taxes to fund local budgets. For example, in South Lake Tahoe, hotel taxes make up about 40% of the city’s income, according to Chris Fiore, the city’s communications manager.
How does the order affect Airbnb bookings?
Airbnb and VRBO aren’t blocking bookings in the Tahoe area. At the time of going to press, these sites had dozens of listings in the Tahoe area.
City and county officials in the Tahoe area say they have no authority to regulate third-party booking markets or the resources to closely monitor the thousands of short-term rentals in the area.
“We don’t have the ability to go door-to-door to everyone (vacation home rentals),” said Fiore.
What if I want to cancel my Airbnb rental in Tahoe?
Guests can cancel their bookings through the Airbnb website but may only receive a 50% refund – or no refund at all, depending on when they booked and at the host’s discretion.
Airbnb largely leaves the cancellation policy to the hosts, who can set loose or restrictive rules. At the start of the pandemic in March, the company waived some cancellation penalties. However, the updated cancellation policy specifically does not cover travel changes due to COVID-related home stay orders. (Guests who test positive for the virus will receive refunds, however.)
Several Airbnb guests told Chronicle that they were able to negotiate full refunds from personable hosts. However, others have only received partial refunds or have had to swallow the entire cost of a canceled booking.
What happens if i stay on the Airbnb i’ve booked?
It’s not clear how the stay at home order will be enforced, but several areas around Tahoe have ordinances that allow them to penalize short-term renters and hosts who violate shutdown orders.
Tahoe officials told Chronicle that they have received calls and complaints about short-term renters since the shutdown went into effect and will respond accordingly.
“We will continue to respond to complaints from citizens about short term rentals and prioritize those concerns based on protecting the general health and safety of the public,” said a statement by Placer County officials made available to the Chronicle.
What if I own a vacation home in Tahoe?
If you own a vacation home in Tahoe, you are allowed to drive to your property during shutdown. However, all travelers are expected to heed the state’s travel advice which recommends self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Are the ski areas open during the shutdown?
Yes, the ski areas will remain open during the shutdown. They have introduced many new pandemic protocols that require skiers to wear masks and stay away from each other.
In most ski resorts, guests need to reserve ski days or buy day tickets online in advance to keep the crowd under control. For a detailed overview of how each Tahoe ski area will work this year, see the Pandemic Pandemic Ski Guide.
I live in the Bay Area. Can I go to a ski area for a day of skiing?
It is unclear where this scenario falls within the spectrum of allowable travel.
Governor Newsom has stated that the local stay-at-home ordinance allows, and even encourages, exercise and stress relief outdoors – including in ski resorts. However, the state strongly advises against non-essential long-distance travel and more than two or three hours from home.
How do I cancel a reservation in a ski area?
Different policies apply at different resorts. It is therefore best to contact the individual resorts directly for specific information on cancellations.
For last-minute cancellations, vouchers may be allowed. For example, Northstar issues full refunds for cancellations made before 48 hours prior to the start of classes. Visitors are also entitled to a “Refund for Closure and Cancellation” in the event of a prolonged or current resort closure.
Annie Vainshtein is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Gregory Thomas is the editor of Chronicle for Lifestyle & Outdoor. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @GregRThomas