NY county tells coronavirus refugees, 2nd homeowners to stay away

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) Many people living in hot spots of the COVID-19 outbreak are looking to escape to regions with fewer cases. Now, one northern New York county is telling people to stay away.

"We're trying to not be, you know, unwelcoming." said Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gillilland, R- Willsboro.

The region is the second largest county in the state of New York, but they have one of the smallest populations. They rely heavily on tourism, seasonal visitors and residents with second homes. But in the wake of COVID-19, they are asking people who don't live here full-time to please stay home.

"We're not set up right now to take an influx or a surge of people," Gillilland said. He said if more people flock to the region it's going to put more people at risk because they can't offer adequate food supplies, don't have hospital space, and don't have COVID-19 testing capacity.

"If people think they are coming up to the area, thinking they are safer, it's just not true," said Gillilland.

And he's not alone. Other lawmakers, including Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-New York, are asking people to be considerate before traveling north. "in terms of our counties in the Adirondacks, most of our public health offices have put out guidance encouraging people not to travel. We don't want people taking nonessential trips right now," she said.

Gillilland says that the county is already seeing an influx in part-time residents or visitors coming to the region. "There are New York City and downstate, but were seeing New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, you name it," he said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn't shut down travel, so there is no legal repercussions if a person does come to the area, but local officials want people to think twice before putting more people at risk until the risk of spreading the virus has settled.

The summer months are a huge tourist draw for the region and Gilliland projects the county stand to lose upwards of $44 million in revenue if the crisis continues.