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Tahoe expecting 77,000 visitors over Fourth of July weekend, officials say

"Bringing that many people up here just increases the risk and we will have more cases... it'd be dumb to say we won't," said SLT Police Lt. Shannon Laney.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Tahoe draws millions of visitors from around the world year-round, especially during the Fourth of July, one of the hottest weekends for Tahoe tourism.

But officials and locals don't want one weekend to cause their town to become a hot spot for the coronavirus. That's why months ago, they canceled the beloved Fourth of July fireworks lake-wide in hopes of preventing crowds from gathering.

Yet, they're already seeing a massive influx of visitors.

"Our population is about 23,000 full-time residents and we'll probably see close to 100,000 people in South Lake Tahoe this weekend," said South Lake Tahoe Mayor Collin.

"Bringing that many people up here just increases the risk and we will have more cases... it'd be dumb to say we won't," said South Lake Tahoe Police Lieutenant Shannon Laney. "We just hope it stays within reason."

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The Tahoe region has extremely limited capacity in their hospitals, around six ICU beds. But Mayor Collin said their medical resources and teams are prepared for an increase whether it's due to COVID-19 or more accidents because of the influx of people.

Having visitors is a fine line for the Tahoe region, as they want to maintain their economy's health - which heavily relies on tourism - while also protecting the physical health of residents and visitors alike.

"We're all susceptible to this disease and we need to respect each other no matter where we're at," said Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority President Carol Chaplin. "[We're recommending visitors] have a good time but respect the fact that we're under mandates just like they are in their hometowns."

Tahoe is a playground for all. Rashad Sayles wanted a break from his hometown of Vallejo and decided to come up to Tahoe with family. 

While he said he's maintaining social distancing, he is not wearing a mask.

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"If I'm going to get it, I'm going to get it," said Sayles. 

Sayles isn't alone. Many along the crowded beach fronts are without masks and despite it being alarming for officials, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department said they are focusing on education, rather than enforcement and are will not be issuing citations. 

But they are locking down on fireworks and camp fires.

"We've got a lot of wind right now and it's been warm so we've got higher fire danger," said Collin. 

Laney said a camp fire ban has been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in order to maintain fire safety. 

But it's not just a lack of fireworks and s'mores that will be the only the only changes for this Fourth of July amid the coronavirus pandemic. Boaters are also feeling an impact.

Credit: Victor Nieto | ABC10

"The Fourth of July is always pretty busy for us, this year is much busier than it usually is," said Alicia Trujillo of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Trujillo helps head boat inspections for Lake Tahoe. Starting a few years ago, they began inspecting every boat before being launched into the lake in order to ensure no aquatic invasive species got onto the lake and hurt the lake's environment.

But due to the coronavirus, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wasn't able to inspect boats until late June, causing an inspection back up. 

While normally you need a boat inspection reservation, for the Fourth of July holiday weekend the agency is allowing boaters to come on a first come, first serve basis at three inspection sites.

"When we opened at 8:30 AM [on Friday] there were 60 boats in line," said Trujillo. "People got here really early, camping since 4 AM."

For those waiting in line, Trujillo is encouraging them to clean, drain and dry their boats so the inspection process goes quickly. 

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WATCH MORE: Lake Tahoe preparing to reopen, but still being limited to locals, homeowners