Health Hazards of COVID-19 on Short-Term Rentals Not Being Addressed by Sheriff’s Office. Indian River County, FL.

County Administrator Jason Brown

Nick Samuel wrote in a May 23, 2020 article in VeroNews.com that “A detailed safety measure to reopen vacation and short term rentals in the county [Indian River] has been approved, allowing the plan to go into effect immediately, officials [Administrator Jason Brown] said.”

According to the plan, “The maximum occupancy for short-term rentals will be as stated on the approved vacation license application. Officials said under no circumstances will a vacation rental have more than 10 overnight guests.

Vacation rentals for visitors coming from high-risk areas, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana, must be for periods longer than 14 days, officials said. All short-term and vacation rentals must follow regulation and health guidelines for sanitation in the workplace and for temporary lodging.

Those rules include constant cleaning of glassware, tableware, utensils, kitchen appliances, refrigeration equipment and frequently touched surfaces. Visitors and staff should continue to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, health officials said.

Officials said guests should maintain a distance of 6 feet away from other groups at pools, beaches or other public amenities at the rentals. Visitors should not gather in groups larger than 10 people.

Staff should also stay 6 feet away from other employees and guests. Employees who interact with visitors are required to wear masks, gloves, and other protective equipment, officials said.

Officials said staff will have temperature checks and screenings upon arrival to work. Any employee who has virus symptoms – coughs, shortness of breath, fever – should self-isolate for 14 days.”

There are 80 County licensed transient boarding houses operating in Indian River County. The internet-based room dealing platform VRBO/Homeaway lists 614 transient boarding houses for rent in Indian River County, the overwhelming majority for less than 30 days.

This computes to a license compliance rate of 14% for VRBO/Homeaway listings only and does not include the 300 plus listings for AirBnB, the largest online room dealer.

In our May 19 email to Major Eric Flowers and a subsequent email on May 23, both of which have been unanswered, I asked how is the IRC Sheriff’s Department going to be able to “police” these short-term rentals in terms of sanitary conditions, licensing and violations?

Who is going to determine if renters are coming from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana?

Who is going to ensure all short-term and vacation rentals will follow regulation and health guidelines for sanitation in the workplace and for temporary lodging?

Who is going to ensure there is constant cleaning of glassware, tableware, utensils, kitchen appliances, refrigeration equipment and frequently touched surfaces? 

Who is the “staff” who will continue to wash their hands regularly with soap and water?

Who will ensure renters maintain a distance of 6 feet away from other groups at pools, beaches or other public amenities at the rentals? 

Who will ensure visitors will not gather in groups larger than 10 people?

Who is the staff that will have temperature checks and screenings upon arrival to work?

Who is the staff that should also stay 6 feet away from other employees and guests?

Who will ensure employees who interact with visitors will wear masks, gloves, and other protective equipment?

Who will ensure visitors will not gather in groups larger than 10 people in a two bedroom rental?

What is perhaps more concerning are the four transient boarding houses registered to and owned by room dealers in Canada, Germany and China.

Who is investigating one man who owns a transient boarding houses on the South Beach flew back to his house from a city 100 miles from Wuhan, China via Malaysia or Singapore?

Does the Indian River County Sheriffs Department have a plan to address these issues in concert with the detailed safety measures to reopen vacation and short term rentals in the County?

Do you need additional personnel resources?  What is the Sheriff’s Department’s strategy?

Without any response from Major Flowers, Sheriff Loar, and County Administrator Jason Brown, there may be no plan.

Did you read today there were two people tested positive for COVID-19 at Publix Supermarkets in Martin County?

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