Manatee County Commissioners Approve Sending Vacation Reopening Plan to State Leaders

Coconut Telegraph

SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY MAY 20, 2020

Manatee County Commissioners today unanimously approved sending a plan to allow local vacation rentals to resume operations to the state leaders for final review and approval.

Under the plan, vacation rental agencies may accept bookings from residents of U.S. states with an overall COVID-19 Case Rate within the state of less than 700 cases/100K residents as of May 15, 2020. Reservations from COVID-19 hot spots identified by the Governor are to be avoided for the next 30- 45 days. Reservations from international travelers will not be accepted.

Other guidelines spell out protocols vacation rental owners must follow to implement social distancing and still others that address the cleanliness standards of the property. County Administrator Cheri Coryea said the guidelines will be mostly self policing but if people spot potential violations they can report them as with other violations during the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. To report a potential violation of state or local emergency orders in unincorporated Manatee County, call: Code Enforcement: (941) 748-2071 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or the Sheriff's Office non-emergency line: (941) 747-3011, ext. 2260 (evenings and weekends).

"We have ability to write citations or to issue a notice to appear, but we are hoping that, just like re-opening our public beaches, that vacation rental owners and visitors will abide by these guidelines," Coryea said. "We are asking for reasonable protocols that will allow our local businesses to begin operating again and that will safely open our community to visitors again."

The guidelines will be sent to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) for review before being sent to the Governor's Office for final review. Coryea has asked for additional insight and guidance from DBPR on how the guidelines will apply inside Manatee County's municipalities.

Manatee County's guidelines, drafted over the past 48 hours, were drafted with input from tourism leaders at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, DBPR guidelines and examples from surrounding counties. County Commissioners discussed the plan after the latest weekly COVID-19 report from the County Administrator.

During the COVID-19 update, Cheri Coryea and Public Safety Director Jacob Saur noted that the positive rate of local COVID-19 cases has dropped significantly in recent weeks. Today Manatee County stands at a 8.1 percent rate of positive cases among those who are tested. Two weeks ago the number stood at more than 14 percent, giving Manatee County one of the state's rates of the coronavirus. Coryea said quick decline of local infection rates is a strong sign that a huge influx of local testing has given local officials a more clear picture of the coronavirus in Manatee County.

Feedback from state officials will be added to the County's guidelines before publishing to the local vacation rental industry. Or, if Manatee County receives swift approval similar to Escambia County, the government will similarly notify the public and vacation rental owners.

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