Plattsburgh, nestled along Lake Champlain, is so far from New York City that Quebec is just 25 minutes away. That means when I went there twice, once for the first dose and again for the second, I had little choice but to stay overnight—and spend a lot more money than expected. During just one of the trips, I picked up food from Olive Ridley’s Taphouse & Grill, visited a pharmacy, and shopped for groceries at Cumberland Bay Market to make dinner at my airbnb. I even did some COVID-cautious sightseeing. Rather than driving back to Westchester the next day, I took a ferry from Plattsburgh to Vermont to see the mountains that line each side of the lake.
Locals in Plattsburgh told me that they’ve seen a modest bump in commerce since the inoculation site opened in mid-January, much of which they suspect is coming from vaccine tourists spending the night. “It has made a difference,” says Raj Patel, the manager of Golden Gate Lodging, a motel in the city. “The extra 10, 20 percent boost in revenue has been due to them.” My airbnb host during the second trip told me that, since the Plattsburgh site started giving out shots, more than half of her bookings had come from people visiting town to get a vaccine.
Other small cities and towns home to mass-vaccination sites told me they’ve seen significant spikes in commercial activity. Habersham County, a rural part of Georgia that’s around 90 miles from Atlanta, has seen an economic bump in many of its restaurants, stores, and hotels since a site opened in Clarkesville in late February. “Having the vaccination site here has definitely refueled the economy after a really tough year,” says Mary Beth Horton, the president of the county’s chamber of commerce.