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Mt. Laguna residents ask snow tourists to practice social distancing

Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 20:50:03-04

MT. LAGUNA, Calif., (KGTV)-- Last weekend, thousands of San Diegans headed to the beaches and mountains to get a breath of fresh air. Many ignored the Governor's stay-at-home order and social distancing.

With more snow in the near future, some residents in Mt. Laguna fear tourists will bring in the Coronavirus with them.

Children playing in the snow: it's cute and seasonal in East County. But Mt. Laguna resident and business owner Nica Knite says, please stay away.

"It's only been a few days people, you could hang at home for a few days. Come on," Knite said.

Last weekend, Knite was appalled to see hundreds of cars lined up along Mile Marker 19 on Sunrise Highway. Families seemingly ignored social distancing rules.

"The idea of recreating outside and going for a walk might seem like a healthy thing to do. But if people are playing in the snow and someone coughs on that snow and your kid falls onto that same snow, they have the opportunity to contract the virus," Knite said. "So it becomes a giant petri dish of danger."

Scientists say COVID-19 could have an easier time surviving and reproducing in colder temperatures. It's because of the large crowds and cooler temperatures that on Sunday, Cleveland National Forest Rangers closed all their campgrounds, day-use areas, and two of their most popular trails: Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls.

"When you're hiking the trails, they're very narrow, and with the number of people we had, they absolutely could not have any kind of social distancing," Mike Kobliska, Assistant Public Information Officer of the Cleveland National Forest, said.

Kobliska says if you are caught in a restricted area, you face a misdemeanor: up to $5,000 fine and/or six months in Jail.

Mt. Laguna Lodge owner, Tom, says he limits the number of people in and around the store at all times.

"If we see somebody sitting too close on our front porch, we ask them to get away, and everybody has been pretty understanding," Tom said.

But Park Rangers want people to be even more understanding.

"The messages still stay home stay home stay home," Kobliska said. "We are still in this crisis. We are all in this together. We are trying to do the best that we can."

"If we end up with cases out of the small rural areas, then you're going to spoil it for everyone," Knite said.

They say please, do not risk your own health and the 57 people who call Mr. Laguna home.