Counties’ plans to reopen vacation rentals are designed to discourage customers from COVID hot spots

Florida's counties have been winning approval to reopen vacation rentals but there are restrictions on who can come. Credit: Julie Hauserman

Five counties, all in the Panhandle, have won state approval for plans to reopen vacation rentals ahead of Memorial Day, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has announced.

But customers from COVID-19 hot spots should plan at least a two-week booking.

That’s because when Gov. Ron DeSantis reversed his ban on vacation rentals, effective on Monday, he applied two conditions: That property owners observe sanitary requirements and reject rentals by people traveling from the New York City area and other hot spots, unless they are willing to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

The governor has complained that people fleeting COVID hot spots have been bringing the virus to Florida and set up screening checkpoints at airports and along highways.

And so Bay County, one of the jurisdictions with plans approved by the state, is imposing this requirement:

“Vacation rental reservations, from areas identified by Gov. DeSantis as high risk, through executive orders, must be for periods longer than the quarantine period established in that order. Guests occupying those vacation rentals must adhere to the quarantine restrictions or be subject to established criminal and civil penalties.”

The other counties, according to the agency’s website, are Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton. Lee, Levy, Osceola, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties have also submitted plans, according to the Florida Association of Counties.

That last link connects to a webpage where you can access each county’s plan.

Escambia’s plan specifies that reservations from hot spots “are to be avoided for the next 30-45 days.” Furthermore, “reservations from international travelers will not be accepted.”