Coronavirus cases surge at Lake Tahoe amid summer tourist season

In a 2017 photo, a family of ducks swims along the shore of South Lake Tahoe.
Ducks swim along the shore of South Lake Tahoe.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The coronavirus is spreading at one of California’s favorite summer destinations: South Lake Tahoe.

The South Lake Tahoe region has reported a per-capita infection rate, over the last 14 days, of 169 new coronavirus cases for every 100,000 residents, exceeding the state’s goal of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000, said Dr. Nancy Williams, the health officer for El Dorado County.

If the South Lake Tahoe region were its own county, “it would now be added to the state’s monitoring list and asked to curtail certain activities,” Williams said in a statement. Actions would include shuttering bars and indoor dining rooms at restaurants.


South Lake Tahoe is part of El Dorado County, a sprawling county that extends from the Nevada border and South Lake Tahoe through the Sierra Nevada and into communities east of Sacramento.

As a whole, the county is reporting about 61 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, according to the Los Angeles Times’ California coronavirus tracker.

But the South Lake Tahoe area has a disproportionately high number of the county’s cases, Williams said.

To contain the spread of COVID-19, parks, restaurants and stores are slowly reopening.

For the South Lake Tahoe region to meet the state’s infection rate goal, it should only see two new cases per day on average, Williams said. “But we’re seeing four or five times that many now,” Williams said.

New cases are also increasing in the rest of El Dorado County.

“Countywide numbers are trending upward quickly, too, and we may find ourselves being directed by the state to roll back activities throughout the county,” Williams said in the statement.

The health officer urged residents and tourists to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings in public. Hiking, boating, camping, climbing and going to the beach can be done more safely if people stay with members of their household; choose takeout over dine-in meals; and spend time outdoors instead of inside buildings, Williams said.


“By actively trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said, “you can make the difference between Lake Tahoe being able to keep businesses open for you to enjoy and having the state require us to bring back more stringent restrictions.”