Celebrities are fleeing urban coronavirus hotspots for Wyoming, Montana and other Western rural regions, a move experts are criticizing as dangerous to those who live in those areas year-round, fearing their relocation may cause added stress to an already severely limited healthcare infrastructure.
"These moves have been a huge concern for us," Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), told NBC News. "It's such a bad idea for upper income urban people to hunker down in these areas and potentially place added pressure on a health care system that was designed for primary care and general surgery, not for pandemic surge response."
Morgan said that as of Friday afternoon, there are more than 16,000 cases of coronavirus scattered across rural counties nationally. Hospitals in these areas have one to two ventilators on site on average, he said, and more than half of rural counties in the United States have no intensive care beds at all, according to a recent Kaiser Health News Data analysis.
Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were the most recent celebrities to come under fire for the phenomenon some have branded "disaster gentrification" after Timberlake recently revealed that the couple has settled into their home in the Yellowstone Club, a 15,200-acre private community west of Gallatin County, to wait out the coronavirus outbreak. Kelly Clarkson has also decamped to her Montana ranch during the pandemic. Neither Timberlake nor Biel responded to NBC News' request for comment. Clarkson was not immediately available for comment.
"To be honest, we thought the best way to kind of do our part was ... We have a place in Montana and so, we came up here," Timberlake said in an interview with SiriusXM Hits1 on Wednesday.
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