When most of the world hunkered down in their homes at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Tahoe locals actually saw an influx of people looking to practice “social distancing” in the beauty of the Tahoe area. People with second homes in the area flocked to Tahoe to make the best of the situation. But it was the floaters on the Truckee River that have seen the most disdain from locals, who have dubbed the popular party spot “Covid Island.”
When certain outdoor businesses were allowed to reopen early in the summer of 2020, the rafting companies on the Truckee River rejoiced that they could provide a fun outdoor alternative for the public. The business came in bulk, but it appeared to have no social distancing protocols and no one wore masks. As the crowds began to form on the river, in came the nickname from the locals.
Even with rafting companies operating at half capacity, the party animals kept coming with their own floaties to party on the river. One popular spot to stop on the river was routinely crowded, hence the nickname “Covid Island.”
While the lazy float down the Truckee River seemed like a nice way to get outside, when too many people are on the small, slow moving river, it creates a crowded situation. One where social distancing is impossible and locals are worried of the potential for an outbreak.
“Are we in a pandemic? Are we not in a pandemic?” said Melissa Siig, who owns an independent movie theater in Tahoe City, to SFGate. “I look around and I feel like we’re not in a pandemic except for the masks. But this is what I know: I know my business can’t open. My kids can’t go to school and I can’t get a haircut. And yet people crowd the beaches, crowd the campgrounds, crowd the river.”
The tourist-heavy Tahoe area has been particularly susceptible to Covid outbreaks, as many people going to the grocery stores and public spaces are from highly-infected areas like the Bay Area. But it doesn’t seem like the crowds are going anywhere anytime soon.