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Tourism has spread virus to Lake Placid, county health director says

Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers speaks at the county complex in Elizabethtown in March. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Tourists traveling to Lake Placid have contributed to the number of COVID-19 cases here, Essex County’s public health director confirmed Tuesday.

The town of North Elba — which includes the village of Lake Placid, the hamlet of Ray Brook and part of the village of Saranac Lake — has been a tourism hub for generations. Its proximity to the High Peaks Wilderness, its world-renowned sports reputation, the scenery and its Olympic legacy continue to draw visitors, even amid a global pandemic. The local economy relies on tourism. The town’s hotels are major employers, as are the restaurants and bars in Lake Placid that many tourists enjoy while in town.

North Elba has also seen the highest number of cases in Essex County.

Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers, during a meeting with the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, said that although there are cases of residents spreading the virus to other residents, tourism has contributed to the number of cases seen here.

Since March, 72 North Elba residents have tested positive for COVID-19, not including three residents who were suspected of having COVID-19 but did not get tested. That’s more than any other town in Essex County. The town with the second-most cases, Ticonderoga, has had 35 test-confirmed cases since March.

North Elba now has the most active cases of COVID-19, too. As of Tuesday, there were 21 active cases in North Elba, according to the county Health Department. That’s more than double the number of cases in Ticonderoga, which had seven on Tuesday.

“We cannot attribute these cases to just people within Lake Placid,” Beers said. “We absolutely know there’s community spread, but we do believe that it came from lots of people that have been tourists there. I know this to be true because we’ve had reports from other counties, saying, ‘I just want to let you know, we have this COVID positive person, and they said they were in Lake Placid last week.’ So we know that people have traveled here, developed COVID-19 in their own counties … that certainly contributes to the increase in Lake Placid.”

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