Once the reality of the coronavirus outbreak finally started to sink in across the US, hundreds of thousands of wealthy Americans with the means to do so decided to get the hell out of Dodge, and bolted to their “summer homes” in less densely-populated places like the Hamptons and Kennebunkport.
Traveling by plane, or by train or by road, depending on the options available at the time, city slickers fled to the country, but many didn’t really think it through, because instead of being somewhere safer and less densely populated, they’re now all crammed on to these tiny islands like Martha’s Vineyard, where medical resources are much more scarce than in well-populated suburbs.
As the Washington Post reports, in recent weeks, wealthy city dwellers escaping to the country have been aggravating longstanding tensions between the year-round locals and the seasonal community. While those from out of town feel they have the right to use property that they own and pay taxes on, locals worry they might be carrying disease.
Adding another layer of irony to the whole affair, a popular meme has surfaced featuring the mayor from the fictional Cape Cod town portrayed in the movie “Jaws”.
On the real-life Cape Cod, Facebook groups intended to connect Cape Cod residents devolved into embittered name-calling and demands to close the bridges to the mainland to cut off the parade of weekend warriors and wealthy seasonal residents. Police in Block Island, Rhode Island, received tips that a gang of residents was preparing to destroy the island’s main power transformers to discourage visitors.
Finally, on the small island of North Haven, Maine, the town voted to ban its own part-time residents.
Door County, a popular summer destination for urbane WIsconsinites and other Midwesterners, has asked seasonal residents to stay away. In a statement, Door County, though it has zero confirmed cases of the virus, warned that an influx of seasonal residents could risk spreading the virus and overwhelming the town’s emergency services.
“Due to high community transmission in certain area of the state and across the nation, Door County Public Health is recommending that you stay in your permanent home area if you have a seasonal or second home in Door County. Door County has well trained and capable medical personnel, but staffing is limited and stretched thin during this emergency. We make this statement in hopes of limiting the demands placed on local hospitals, emergency personnel, nurses and doctors People who have seasonal homes in Door County, please stay at your winter homes at this time. If you are already back in Door County you are encouraged to self-quarantine for fourteen days.
“Door County has a large population of older adults and others who are identified to have a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19. It is our top priority to keep people in Door County healthy and safe. On March 17, 2020, the Door County Board of Supervisors issued a countywide COVID-19 Emergency Declaration. Please be aware that additional health and travel restrictions may be imposed during this time.”
But with millions of students essentially out of school for the year, it appears summer vacation has come early. Several governors, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have advised residents to stay at their primary residences.
Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, warned those with cabins “down the shore” (the Jersey shore) to stay in town.