The COVID-19 event is unlike any other natural or man-made disaster that Big Bear Lake, and every community in the United States, has ever experienced. It’s not as simple as comparing this event to a wildfire, an earthquake, or a hurricane, as this event is literally affecting every single community and every single person, no one knows exactly how it will all end, nor when it will end.
The City has received several suggestions that we should just “close the mountain”. While that conclusion is a completely understandable and reasonable conclusion for one to reach, it’s not quite that simple. First, the City of Big Bear Lake has jurisdiction over approximately 6.5 square miles, a little more than 5,000 permanent residents, and just shy of 10,000 housing units. The City limits include only a fraction of all of the land area, permanent residents, and housing units in the valley. The City does not have authority over Big Bear City, Fawnskin, Sugarloaf, or other unincorporated areas, and does not control the 3 State highways leading into the valley. The City could certainly take action to restrict access into and out of the City limits of Big Bear Lake, however, that would not apply to other areas in the valley, and the City may then be in a position to not allow others in the valley to enter the City limits – which is where most of the shopping and services exist – and the City would not want to prevent our neighbors from accessing essential goods and services in any way.
Additionally, it’s important to note that many of our residents are actively traveling out of the City and the valley to other communities down the hill, including for purchase of essential goods and services, and none of those communities have limited the ability for our residents to visit their communities. Finally, if our intent is to limit the spread of COVID-19 into Big Bear Lake, we also shouldn’t allow our residents to leave and then return, as they could potentially bring the virus back with them. At this time, the City is not aware or any California communities that have restricted people from other communities from entering their community.
The City, in conjunction with Visit Big Bear, has directly discouraged visitors to Big Bear Lake since Thursday, and continues to do so. Visitors should not come to Big Bear Lake during the COVID-19 event, and should abide by “shelter in place” restrictions in place in their home community.
The City’s response to the COVID-19 threats has and will continue to consider all aspects of this crisis in our decision-making. As has been the case thus far, the City’s continued response will continue to evolve based on changing circumstances, new information, and new or clarified restrictions from State and County officials. Above all, the City’s response is guided exclusively by the expertise of public health experts, and will continue to rely on that expertise.