Fleeing virus for resort homes, some find welcome mat yanked

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Matt and Anna Mason play with their son, Oliver, on the beach in Cape May, N.J., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The Masons live and work in Cape May. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

OCEAN CITY, N.J. – Some city folk have been fleeing to their second homes in resort areas to ride out the coronavirus outbreak near the beach or the ski slopes. But neighbors in many of those places are yanking the welcome mat — fearing infection and the overwhelming of already stretched resources in sleepy shore and mountain communities.

In southern New Jersey, Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton asked summer home owners, who make up nearly half the property owners, to stay away for at least two weeks.

“Because the children are out of school, people are taking that as an opportunity to go to the shore,” he said Wednesday. “Instead of a national emergency, they're taking it like an additional vacation.”

Thornton said a quarter of the county is aged 60 or older — and thus particularly vulnerable to the virus. The county is particularly popular with Canadian tourists.

While, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus in a period of weeks.

“We don't know where these people are coming from or who they've been exposed to,” he said. “We got reports today that someone from New York who was exposed to the virus came down here, and now we're investigating whether he's positive.”

An hour later, county officials announced that the man, a 30-year-old New Yorker, had indeed tested positive, and was the first confirmed case of the virus in Cape May County. That led the county's director of nursing to issue another request for visitors to stay away.

Similar debates are raging in many shore and mountain towns.