Dahl has adjusted to Sedona's rearranged lifestyle, setting up a delivery service catering to those who have flocked to their second homes in this high-desert valley to ride out the stay-home restrictions. Picture: AP
Dahl has adjusted to Sedona's rearranged lifestyle, setting up a delivery service catering to those who have flocked to their second homes in this high-desert valley to ride out the stay-home restrictions. Picture: AP

From pricey rentals to private jets, how the super rich are escaping coronavirus

By Kurtis Lee, Richard Read And Jaweed Kaleem Time of article published Apr 27, 2020

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Sedona, Arizona - Lisa Dahl scanned the horizon from the

patio of one of her five restaurants, watching thick clouds cast

shadows on red rock spires that formed outlines like desert

skyscrapers.

The restaurateur stood in the afternoon silence, a rarity at

Mariposa, billed as the best fine dining in a town about two hours

from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. She thought about what life

was like here, on this patio, before the coronavirus.

Reservation only. New Yorkers. Angelenos. Investment bankers. Tech

entrepreneurs. They sipped stiff cocktails and snapped photos in

front of a backdrop so picturesque it looked it was created in

Photoshop. As they savoured bites of $48 (about R900) veal chop, they talked

about how next time they were in town, they'd have to try the

flourless chocolate chile orange torte with vanilla bourbon gelato.

Such scenes have been relegated to nostalgia as a deadly pandemic has

upset an enclave that was once kept sequestered only by money. But

the virus has also exposed the stark divide between the rich and

everyone else in a nation whose disparities are marked by upward

spiraling joblessness and luxury cars racing through the desert air.

Dahl has adjusted to Sedona's rearranged lifestyle, setting up a

delivery service catering to those who have flocked to their second

homes in this high-desert valley to ride out the stay-home

restrictions.

"There are people who love the food and are willing to spend," Dahl

said on a recent afternoon as she cradled Leonardo, her Maltese

poodle. "These are trying times for many people, but many people are

also very blessed."

As the coronavirus continues its destructive path across the US,

killing more than 50 000 and devastating the economy - drive-up food

bank lines snake on for miles and about 26 million have filed for

unemployment, marking what could become the highest unemployment rate

since the Great Depression. Amid such reckoning, some well-heeled

Americans have activated pandemic escape plans.

They've fled big cities and headed to second homes or $8 000-a-month rentals in places like Sedona and rural coastal

stretches of the Pacific North-west. They're arriving by personal

travel buses, private planes and yachts.

On Fisher Island - a 216-acre luxury destination south of Miami Beach

that's home to one of the nation's richest zip codes - management

paid more than $30 000 for 1 200 employees and residents to be

tested for coronavirus antibodies. A similar testing effort took

place in the mountain resort town of Telluride, Colorado. By

contrast, governors of many states have struggled to secure an

adequate number of tests.

Hollywood billionaire David Geffen recently posted an Instagram photo

of the sun setting behind his 454-foot yacht in the Caribbean.

"Isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus," he captioned the

photo. "I'm hoping everybody is staying safe."

Faced with fierce criticism, he swiftly made his account private.

Some small, quiet towns have started to post "stay out" signs - a

message to those fleeing from cities - and mayors have publicly urged

people to stay away.

On a recent afternoon at the Sedona Airport, a strip of asphalt atop

a mesa overlooking the city, three private jets sat parked. Sedona's

mayor, Sandy Moriarty, has made a plea to potential visitors: Please

stay home. She told a local TV station that she'd seen social media

photos of tourists packing into local camping grounds and popular

hiking trails.

"It's incredible," she said, "it really is crowded, it's too

crowded."

So far, this stretch of northern Arizona has seen fewer than 100

diagnosed cases of the coronavirus infection, but some locals worry

that numbers could spike if there's too much travel here. And that

could mean more devastation, they worry, for locals who have already

suffered deep economic losses.

During the pandemic, Dahl said she's had to cut back from 345

employees at her restaurants - among the largest employer in Sedona -

to 45.

"This situation pains me for my employees," she said, noting that

some had worked for her for more than a decade. "I've poured my heart

into these restaurants and so have they."

Last year, her five restaurants grossed 20 million dollars, she said,

and she was on track to have an even better year in 2020. Then came

the outbreak and, within a matter of days, she had to scale back and

adjust to a new reality.

On a recent afternoon, Dahl put together a well-to-do version of a

care package for two New York dermatologists. They're among her best

clients, she said, and they had planned to leave Manhattan earlier

this month for Sedona. She shipped them a few familiar tastes from

her Sedona restaurants - macaroons, marinara sauce and tomato soup.

Twelve hundred miles from Sedona at Surf Pines, a gated community

north-west of Portland, Oregon, with homes overlooking the Pacific

Ocean, is another quiet, stay-home haven.

Gina Sjolander, her husband and their three adult children are

hunkered in their second home, where they pass the days playing board

games, gazing out across windswept dunes as elk wander by, and

ordering takeout from the Astoria Golf & Country Club.

They're visiting from the Seattle area - the first hot spot for the

virus in the US - where Lil' Jon Restaurant & Lounge has been in

their family for three generations.

The restaurant is closed for now.

"For us," Sjolander said, "it hasn't been too much of a hardship."

Head a couple hours south along the coast to Lincoln City, Oregon,

and you'll find Diana Hardy, a cashier at a grocery store. She spends

her days sweating behind a mask and wiping down counters with bleach.

"I feel in danger every day," said Hardy, 66, a coastal resident

since 1986. "Those of us that live here full time and wait on them

are the ones that are at risk."

Leaders of Lincoln City and other coastal communities acted quickly

in late March, when vacationers swarmed beaches, stripping store

shelves and alarming managers of local hospitals, who feared their

small facilities couldn't handle a surge. Cities and counties that

thrive on tourism banned visits by non-residents, booting guests from

hotels and shutting down short-term rentals a day before Oregon

Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide stay-at-home order.

Much of Oregon's shoreline, and Washington state's coastal Pacific

County to the north, remains off-limits to outsiders. Lincoln County,

where Hardy lives, and Clatsop County, where the Sjolanders stay in

their second home, have only 11 confirmed coronavirus cases between

them, and no deaths.

But coastal residents remain suspicious of outsiders, all too aware

that other parts of Washington and Oregon have more than 14 000

confirmed cases of the virus and a death toll of 770.

Hardy acknowledges that owners of second homes are entitled to stay

in their properties, although she wishes that more of them would stop

traveling back and forth between houses.

Claire Hall, a Lincoln County commissioner, says a gulf has appeared

between the haves and the have-nots.

"There's a class strain, in that people see privilege in those who

can afford a second home," Hall said. "But asking people to stay away

is not that great a sacrifice, when you're talking about people's

health and in some cases their lives."

Similar suspicion is on display in Big Sky, Montana, a resort

community north of Yellowstone National Park renowned for its ski

slopes.

"For a while if you went to the market and saw a license plate that

said Minnesota, California or Illinois, you'd get curious, maybe a

little afraid," said Eric Ossorio, who moved to the town from

Connecticut nearly three decades ago. "Luckily, the spike in

infections one may have feared hasn't happened."

Still, the region hasn't escaped unscathed. There are at least 145

confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Gallatin County, the hardest

hit in the state and home to Big Sky and Bozeman, the fourth-largest

city in Montana.

At the exclusive 15 200-acre Yellowstone Club community, where empty,

half-acre lots start in the millions and attract chief executives and

business moguls, management emailed members in the middle of the

March ski season, telling them to cancel plans. Several were already

on their properties, though, and have stayed there since.

Resort foundations have now raised more than 2 million dollars to

donate to the Bozeman medical system and community groups.

Ossorio, a 63-year-old real estate agent, said he regretted the

health crisis and shutdowns, but added that residents were enjoying

the slower pace of life with fewer visitors.

"It's so huge out here, the land. You can go Nordic skiing, you can

ride your bikes," he said. "It's frankly difficult to run into

anybody. Maybe at the post office you'll see people, or if you go to

buy groceries or takeout, but otherwise it's just you."

Back in Sedona, Scott MacDonald, an investment manager who lives in

Denver, had arrived earlier this month after loading up his Tesla

Model X and making the 12-hour drive south with his wife and two

children.

Los

Angeles Times/dpa

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