Lake Havasu City Officials Urge Visitors To Stay Home As Petitions Circulate Over Lake Closure
As the coronavirus pandemic forces the closure of many businesses and other tourism destinations all across Arizona, Lake Havasu City residents are finding they are in complete disagreement in whether access to the popular destination Lake Havasu should be shut down.
A reader in Mohave County recently reached out to All About Arizona News to express concern that the Governor’s Shelter-in-Place state order is being violated and it could mean a spike in the number of Corona-19 cases soon for the county.
The picture, which was shared with All About Arizona News, shows Katherine’s Landing in Bullhead City, Arizona over the weekend. Reports say Lake Havasu is backed up for miles with boats also, supposedly mostly with California license plates.
Currently Mohave County has experienced 96 confirmed Coronavirus cases with only 4 deaths. However residents are concerned with the influx of visitors from neighboring states such as Nevada and California, could lead to an increase in the number of cases and ultimately deaths.
While families are just looking to spend their down time on the lake while they soak up the Arizona sun, where are these large number of tourist staying and dining? And are they congregating in large groups? More so there has been concern that as the out of state visitors descend on the local stores, which are already low on stock to be begin with, the increase in populations is creating an additional stress for residents.
In early April, an online petition was circulated by Khamranie Persaud, a physician in Lake Havasu City. The petition states that residents have concerns about continued recreational activity on the lake during the pandemic.
“Since our lake is still open, it is encouraging tourism from other states, which will eventually cause the spread of infection and overwhelm our local medical system and resources,” the petition states.
Persaud said she did notice “an uptick in tourism” in Havasu over the past few weeks.
“Many residents, we all notice that the streets are much busier, the parking lots are full, the grocery stores are all full, the waterways, the parks — everything is much more crowded than it normally is,” she said.
Chris Carroll, a Lake Havasu City resident, said he’s seen visitors taking part in recreation on the lake and venturing out to shop at grocery stores. Carroll said he is worried that the influx of visitors could increase the risk of people getting sick. He has a reason to be deeply concerned as he is recovering from cancer and also has stage-four cirrhosis.
“If they can’t stay home, how am I supposed to trust them to obey the rules here?” he said. “If people are getting sick, we don’t need the water right now … I’d rather stay healthy than worry about the water, we can always get in the water later.”
And just as the petition to close the lake is gaining, the opposition has started to circulate a petition demanding that Arizona waterways remain open to provide residents an outlet.
Which side is right? Protect the citizens, slow the curve or enjoy the sunshine and outdoors and hope the large numbers of people in an area does not spread the disease?
Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy recognizes the concern and is asking visitors to remain at home. The mayor has voiced his side stating that closing the lake isn’t within his authority because it’s a federal waterway shared between Arizona and California. Both local, state and federal agencies have jurisdiction of the lake, which would make the determining the decision to close the lake a difficult one.
The mayor also announced in early April that the boat launch ramps cannot be closed because they are controlled by Arizona State Parks.
“With the governor’s executive order, it leaves outdoor recreation open and they’re taking that guidance from the governor’s office and intend to leave state parks open throughout the state, including Lake Havasu City,” he said.
Bottom line, Mayor Sheehy continues to urge people, both visitors and Arizona residents to stay home to slow the spread of the virus simply because the area has only one hospital and a large elderly population.
With the lake open and the city seeing an increase in population during this time, it’s simply a recipe for disaster with a hospital that isn’t large enough to accommodate an influx of sick people. According to Sheehy, the hospital has 171 total beds. Meanwhile, 35% of Havasu’s population is 65 years and older. Meaning 55,000 full-time residents are an average age of 54. “From a health perspective of medical capacities in these rural communities, we don’t have the ability to care for the influx of visitors and our own citizens in these areas,” Sheehy said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
The Governor, the Mayor, the doctors are all urging residents to stay at home. The beautiful lake will be there once we come through this pandemic