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Coronavirus outbreak changing life in Beatty

Updated April 1, 2020 - 9:50 am

For the burros, it’s business as usual in Beatty, although there has been a curtailment of handouts from passing tourists and some local eateries. But for most of the human residents, the “Stay Home Nevada” restrictions have caused major alterations in daily life.

Because of its remoteness, Beatty might be expected to be one of the least likely places to have an outbreak. The patient, who was Nye County’s first, and Beatty’s only, confirmed COVID-19 case, is recovered and out of quarantine.

That remoteness, however, is countered by the fact that Beatty is a popular stop for truckers and travelers on Highway 95, the busy route between Las Vegas and points north. Many of the customers at the Family Dollar store, for instance, are usually travelers.

Store clerks and postal workers who deal with customers are holding up, but they are frightened. “It’s scary to come to work,” said one. “I know we’re essential, but it’s scary because I have little ones at home.”

Most local restaurants have stayed open for take-out only. A couple have put up make-shift signs like the one on the back of a pickup parked in front of the Sourdough Saloon, but right next door to the Sourdough, the Happy Burro Chili and Beer is closed.

Some locals gathered, sitting some distance apart, in the outdoor seating at the Sourdough, but that was broken up by a deputy enforcing the governor’s emergency order.

Allison Henderson, coordinator for the Beatty Volunteer Ambulance Service, says, “We are all worried. This is a very serious disease.” She adds that they have enough gloves and masks for now, “but time will tell.”

A second positive case was reported on Tuesday in Amargosa Valley, a man in his 40s who is self-quarantining in his residence, according to a Nye County spokesman.

Justice of the Peace Gus Sullivan said that court cases have been postponed or rescheduled. The doors to the Justice Center are locked, but they are serving people’s needs for paperwork as best they can with as little personal contact as possible. Some things are being handled by video conferencing.

Like students elsewhere, Beatty kids are getting acclimated to remote learning. They pick up school work, along with meals, at the elementary and middle school.

One particular difficulty for Beatty residents has to do with how most folks here do their major shopping, including for meat, produce, and other groceries. The usual practice is to go to Pahrump or Las Vegas every couple of weeks or so. That means buying greater quantities at a time than people who shop every day or two.

Karl Olson, the BLM caretaker who lives in Rhyolite, gave an example of the problem. Shopping at the Smith’s in Pahrump, he tried to check out with some bacon, some Italian sausage, and a pork roast, but was told he had to put two of them back because there was a limit on pork items.

“I told the checker I was from a distance away, but she said it made no difference. She had to enforce the rule,” said Olson.

There are still almost always visitors at Rhyolite, but Olson says that the numbers are way down. “It’s mostly stragglers, mostly out of state. One couple from Washington said they weren’t going home. They’re from Seattle. They’re just going to camp out in the desert until it’s over.”

He noted that all the organized tour groups that normally frequent Rhyolite have been canceled. The public restrooms at Rhyolite are closed, and the gates to the Bottle House and railroad depot are locked.

When this reporter visited Goldwell Open Air Museum at Rhyolite a few days ago to check on conditions, there were several visitors on the grounds. When asked, one couple said they were from China.

As for the closures in Beatty, Olson added, “I don’t know what my associates in Beatty are doing. I mean, the bars and casinos are closed. They must be going crazy. No social life.”

People are dealing with being house-bound variously. Some are working on projects around the house they normally don’t find time for. Many are visiting with family and friends via the Internet.

Ann Marchand says, “We go riding a couple of times a day.” She sometimes posts photos of off-road outings on Facebook.

Jerry Martin said he’s been watching YouTube videos. “I found a complete episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” he reported. He said that when he was in college the cartoon show was very popular because of inside jokes.

“It came on at 4:00, so you never scheduled a class for that time so you could watch it.”

Patti Davis pointed out that the price of gas has been coming down. “Now that you can afford to travel, you can’t,” she bemoaned.

Richard Stephens is a freelance reporter living in Beatty.

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