HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — For many people, the lakes around Hot Springs are a home-away-from-home and a chance to enjoy the great outdoors. But if your first home is in a place hard hit by the novel coronavirus, expect to enjoy the great indoors for a couple of weeks here, as well.
"We don't want you to not come, but we want you to take proper provisions when you get here," said Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney. "We want to make sure we're all healthy and safe as quick as we can be."
Mahoney is walking a fine line between being inviting and protective in the popular resort area an hour southwest of Little Rock.
"Everybody's a little anxious to see what the days ahead hold in store," he said.
With 31 cases as of March 31 in the county, the days, so far, have been calm. Hot Springs officials are resigned to devastating tourism numbers because of the shut downs put in place.
But with so much inviting real estate along Lake Hamilton, Lake Catherine, and Lake Ouachita, people in virus hot spots are still eyeing a getaway as a welcome change of scenery.
Turns out, a trip to those properties will leave you seeing the scenery from inside for a stretch.
"If they come here from an area that's been affected heavily by this virus, then we're going to ask that they do a 14 day self-quarantine," said Judge Mahoney.
Other national parks have warned travelers against making trips to their out-of-the-way places, but they are worried about strains on small-town hospitals. Mahoney said, for now, that's not a worry in Hot Springs.
"I think that we've been proactive in our testing," he said, pointing to testing set-ups at places like CHI St. Vincent's Convenient Care Clinic. "We've got five evaluation centers set up around Garland County, which is probably more than anybody else has."
But better than average testing is not stopping the spread of the virus in Arkansas, no matter how many homes or condos you have.
"We obviously don't want them to stay away, but just remember to be a good neighbor when you get here," the judge said.
The county has no way to enforce a quarantine right now, but he's asking for people to use their common sense, no matter how tempting a get-together at the lake house might feel right now.