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Banning Short Term Rentals To Keep Covid-19 Away

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public Radio
A man walks down the West End neighborhood in Portland, Maine. The city is banning short term rentals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Portland, Maine is suspending all short-term rentals in another effort to help control the spread of the new corona virus in a state with one of the country's oldest populations.

It's a bit of a gamble for a city where the tourism industry has flourished in the past decade. But for City Councilor Kimberly Cook, the potential benefits outweigh the risk to industry.

"The concerns for public health outweigh the concerns regarding the loss of income for people who operate short-term rentals," said Cook.

Short term rental agreements will still be allowed if they are made to medical professionals coming to the city to aid with the outbreak. Exceptions can also be made for people experiencing homelessness. The final allowance will be made for Portland residents needing to isolate from their household over concerns of spreading Covid-19 or contracting it from a household member.

Cook felt compelled to introduce the amendment to the stay-at-home order when she became aware a Maine-based company was advertising short-term rentals as as an option for out-of-towners looking to shelter in place somewhere other than where they live.

"I was surprised, I was shocked, and I thought this is something that obviously we need to address as part of our order," Cook said.

Portland's ban was echoed by similar restrictions in another Maine town with a strong tourist industry, Bar Harbor.

Maine Governor Janet Mills recently addressed the issue at a regularly scheduled press conference.

"We're very much concerned with people feeling as if they can flee the virus by coming to Maine or other states where the population is less dense, or where we have not been designated a hotspot by (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), or the president, or the vice president," Mills said. "That would be a false motivation to come to any state."

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