According to news reports, areas that, like the Berkshires, are home to many second-home owners are seeing an influx of part-time residents before the usual summer months. This is no surprise given the size and speed of the coronavirus outbreak in heavily congested areas like New York City.
As Clarence Fanto wrote Sunday ("Second-homers give preseason bump to tourist towns"), a Lenox grocery store reports that business is "like summer," and urbanites with New York plates are boosting other businesses. They are also accused, largely anecdotally, of contributing to the hoarding problem vexing Berkshire stores.
Berkshire full-timers have always had a complex relationship with the second home-owners. During this pandemic, tensions may increase unless cooler heads prevail. A recent letter writer to The Eagle wanted to know if arriving second-home owners would be "screened" for the coronavirus.
Well no, they won't be. There is no Berkshire consulate they must report to when crossing the border. Nor should they be. Screening would be tantamount to assuming a certain group is spreading the virus and that road leads to scapegoating and a weakening of the group effort needed to win the coronavirus battle. However, we would expect that if a new arrival in the Berkshires had come into contact with someone with the coronavirus or who was showing symptoms of the disease that they quarantine themselves for 14 days, just as any Berkshire resident would. In fact, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force Tuesday urged anyone leaving New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days.
There are apparently concerns that the arriving second-home owners will put an additional strain on medical systems, but the strain on Berkshire Medical Center by a shortage of supplies can be blamed on an arrogant president who made light of the pandemic during precious weeks his administration could have been preparing for it.
If a handful of new arrivals contract the virus it won't dramatically change the situation at BMC. Of course, second-home owners should be expected to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing and rigorous hand-washing, like the full-time residents, and respect the rules laid down by Gov. Baker and the communities they reside in.
When all is said and done, the Berkshire cultural scene that fuels the local economy will be in need of a sharp boost, and the second-home owners can always be counted upon to do this. They will return to Berkshire taverns and restaurants once they reopen their doors. Differences real or imagined, full-time and part-time residents care about the Berkshires and must be allies in the cause of getting the county through the pandemic and then back to economic health.