Maybe you've noticed that when you buy a new car (for example, a black Subaru Outback) that suddenly you notice black Subaru Outbacks everywhere you look? Those cars were always out there, but now you are hyper-aware of all the black Subaru's on the road. The same could be said for a motorcycle or even a new pair of shoes. You thought they were super unique, and it turns out... they're not. It could be that I'm experiencing the same type of phenomenon with all the out-of-state license plates I've noticed around town lately.

Credit: Michael Foth TSM

Yesterday, I spotted at least four cars from other states in our parking lot here at the office. Granted, our studios are located in a hotel and seeing cars from other states in our lot is not really unusual. Travelers from all over the country pass through our building all the time.

Credit: Michael Foth TSM

But it's not just in the hotel parking lot. Running around town lately I've noticed tons of Florida plates along with Washington, California, Illinois, Indiana, and others. Are these people that are fleeing COVID-19 "hotspots" around the country? Did they come to Montana because we have had less than 500 confirmed cases and only 16 deaths? Are they here in Big Sky Country, hoping to ride out the virus? Maybe they have always wanted to visit Montana and just happened to decide that now - during a pandemic - would be an ideal time for a family vacation?

Credit: Michael Foth TSM

I've talked to friends in the Bozeman area and they say the same thing. TONS of out-of-state plates are being spotted everywhere. They told me that the Big Sky area is packed right now. The ski resort is closed and summer tourist season hasn't started yet, so that seems odd.

We're lucky our coronavirus numbers have been so low. It's easy to forget that other states are still getting hammered. Reuters released a bunch of interesting data in a recent report (check it out if you dig stats) and the top 3 states for new COVID-19 cases last week were:

  1. Kentucky. 1,561 new cases, a jump of 60.3%
  2. Minnesota. 4,608 new cases a 50.5% increase.
  3. Alabama. 2.052 new cases, a 41% increase.

And other states besides New York are still seeing lots of death. Top 3 (by the percentage of increase) from the week ending 5/10 were:

  1. Arizona reported 174 new deaths last week. A 100% increase.
  2. Pennsylvania had 1,263 new reported deaths. That's a 41.3% increase from the previous week.
  3. Florida had 388 new deaths, an increase of 25.6%

Maybe it's just normal traffic and maybe I'm delusional for thinking that people are trying to hide from COVID-19 (or their home-state quarantine restrictions) by coming to a safe place like Montana. It's a nice thought that everyone who arrives is self-quarantining for 14 days. Yeah right. We all know that's likely not true. There is no way for authorities to track and follow up with everyone that drives or flies into Montana. Let's be real. Keep those hands washed. You never know what those filthy out-of-staters have been touching.

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