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Clear Lake closed due to crush of tourists amid coronavirus pandemic

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Clear Lake, the center of the economy and recreational life in Lake County, and the tourism industry it supports were shut down Sunday by public health officials in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Lake County Health Officer Gary Pace closed all motels, campgrounds, vacation rentals and waterways in the county — including Clear Lake, Cache Creek and Lake Pillsbury — after they were swarmed by a crush of visitors over the weekend.

“Despite concerns, and restrictions placed last week, significant recreational activity that increases the risk of transmission was observed this weekend in local parks, hotels, and on Clear Lake,” Pace said in a statement issued Sunday night by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The order takes effect at 11 a.m. Monday and is scheduled to last through April 10.

Pace’s order expands the shelter-in-place order he issued Wednesday. That order, like others issued throughout the Bay Area and echoed Thursday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide declaration, restricts nonessential travel and business in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“We are moving into a new phase of preparation for the outbreak, which demands we take major steps toward limitation of social contact to prevent transmission,” Pace said in a statement.

The new restrictions are unfortunate but necessary, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents Lake County.

“Too many tourists are ignoring the shelter-at-home order,” McGuire said. “Unfortunately, the absolute best thing for public health is the worst thing for our economy. The only way to shorten this crisis is to take this virus seriously.”

The new order bans recreational boating on all public waterways in Lake County, including Blue Lakes, Highland Springs Reservoir and Indian Valley Reservoir.

It also orders an immediate cessation of lodging in motels, hotels, campgrounds, RV parks and vacation rentals, such as Airbnb. It makes exceptions for medical staff, COVID-19 emergency workers, construction workers on critical infrastructure and permanent residents who have resided on-site before March 9. Any people claiming exemptions, other than first responders and medical staff, will need written approval from the Lake County Health Services Department.

Lake County, which has no known cases of coronavirus, is among the first on the North Coast to further restrict recreational activity following a rush of visitors over the weekend amid the statewide shelter-in-place order.

In Marin County, which has 38 cases, all parks will be closed starting Monday. Sonoma County, which now has 27 cases, has closed its restrooms at county parks, but the parks themselves remain open and free to residents because county supervisors wanted to encourage people to get outside.

After a wave of residents and non-residents visited Sonoma County beaches on Saturday, the county’s interim Public Health Officer, Dr. Sundari Mase, declared the excursions violate the spirit of the shelter-in-place order she issued Tuesday.

“We recommend limiting outdoor activity to staying close to home,” she said.

“We don’t expect people to be driving 20 miles to go to a beach.”

A Sonoma County Regional Parks post on Instagram announcing the bathroom closures also came with a warning.

“If crowded conditions persist, social distancing requirements are not being adhered to or unsanitary conditions develop, some or all parks and trails will be required to close.”

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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