Russian River communities report a surge of out-of-town visitors

The small town of Monte Rio in Sonoma County sits along the Russian River. The population is just over 1,000 people. Many residents are retirees, like Matthew Pineo. Pineo said the warm weather has brought unwelcome visitors to town.

“Yesterday it was like summertime here,” said Pineo.

He said out-of-towners packed beaches and grocery stores in Monte Rio and Guerneville, and some were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

He’s worried if someone is carrying COVID-19, they could expose the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“They are overwhelming our resources here on the river and we have a very fragile group of people living here on the river,” said Pineo. “Those with autoimmune disorder and we also have a large retiree population of 60 percent.”

“Our nearest hospital, depending on where you are in west Sonoma County, could be a half hour to 2 hours away. And you are jeopardizing people’s lives here. And it is very unfortunate you do not respect us.”

Sunday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office set up road block and barricades to keep cars out of parking lots and away from the beaches.

There are shelter in place signs posted throughout town to discourage non-essential travel.