Coronavirus risk is higher at Lake Tahoe STRs without inspections (Guest opinion)
On March 2, Bloomberg News announced that Airbnb will delay its initial public offering planned for later this year because of the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on the travel industry.
The Wall Street Journal quoted one person close to the company who said “the coronavirus could delay the IPO because its Chinese segment is entirely down.”
Although this news report from Airbnb is focused only on the general effects of the coronavirus on one segment of the travel industry, it highlights the real concern travelers have about catching this highly infectious disease.
Certainly air travel is already down and major conferences and events across the world are being cancelled to prevent the virus from spreading.
The news from Airbnb may also reflect the simple fact that travelers who might normally be willing to stay in a house, condo, or apartment as a short-term rental may prefer to stay in licensed hotels, motels, and B&Bs with their higher standards of cleanliness mandated by the Public Accommodations Act.
How will coronavirus affect tourism in Tahoe’s STRs? In the proposed version of the Washoe County STR ordinance there is no mention — let alone a required standard—for cleanliness of STRs.
Even a professional cleaning service can’t guarantee the accommodation is virus-, bacteria-, or bug-free. Nor does the proposed ordinance require all STRs to have property managers or use professional cleaning services.
We members of the Incline Village Short-Term-Rental Citizen Advisory Group have presented our concerns to Washoe County commissioners about the possible liabilities associated with approving STR use of a home without adequate health and cleanliness standards.
STR renters and owners can be assured these standards are met only if maintenance personnel are properly trained and supervised.
Not only can a STR renter not know how healthy or sick a prior renter is, neither can the maintenance staff.
With the incubation period of coronavirus now possibly more than 24 days (New York Post, Feb. 13) and the virus still active up to nine days on surfaces (The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 22), anyone renting within this time frame could be at risk of infection.
Although the coronavirus has brought these health and cleanliness concerns into focus, the lack of sanitation standards in the new proposed Washoe County ordinance will leave all STR renters exposed to a greater chance of infections.
The liability for serious disease or death should give everyone — renters, owners, internet platforms and municipalities — cause for pause.
Ronda Tycer, PhD, is Co-Chair for the Incline Village Short-Term Rental Citizen Advisory Group.
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