25 American Vacation Destinations Emerging as COVID Hotspots

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The late-summer spread of COVID-19 is reaching into vacation destinations – places where people retreat for holiday rentals in the hopes of being able to relax, have fun…and be safe from the unrelenting pandemic. 

To determine the U.S. tourist destinations emerging as COVID-19 hot spots, 24/7 Tempo reviewed county-level data on new weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cities, towns, villages, and census-designated places were ranked based on the number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations in their Hospital Service Area (HSA) in the week Aug. 27-Sep. 2, 2023 per 100,000 residents. Only places with at least 1,000 residents where at least 40% of housing units are vacant for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use were considered. (COVID aside, these are the best places to buy a vacation home.)

The late-summer spread is happening as a new variant, EG.5, has become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the U.S., based on estimates from the CDC. It is not clear whether this variant is to blame for the surging numbers of hospitalizations, however.

What is clear is that older people are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19, and hospitalization rates are likely to be higher in states or communities with older populations. That might explain why towns in Florida that are tourist destinations occupy 12 places on our list. Florida has the fifth-oldest population in the United States – at an average of 42.2 years – according to World Population Review. Texas has three towns and California two on the list. (Because it’s back-to-school time, here’s also a list of 25 college towns emerging as COVID hotspots.)

Vacation spots are typically small towns. Sunny Isles Beach in Florida is the most populous, with 22,234 people. In fact, eight of the 10 most populous towns on our list are in Florida.

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