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Massachusetts doesn’t want hotels and short-term rentals used for leisure amid coronavirus

Gov. Charlie Baker instead wants those rooms to house people fighting the pandemic and dealing with other emergencies

Square apps glowing on a smartphone. Shutterstock

Gov. Charlie Baker doesn’t want people booking short-term rentals, hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and any other commercial lodging in Massachusetts for leisure purposes for the foreseeable future. He instead wants those rooms freed up for the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Hotels and short-term rentals like Airbnb may no longer be booked for vacation or leisure purposes,” Baker said on March 31. “People should really be using common sense on this one and not be going on vacation right now.”

Baker said that “frontline healthcare workers” and residents displaced from their homes should have first claim to the rentals and rooms as should those quarantining or self-isolating because of the virus. He also said the lodgings should be used to house workers who “are part of our essential business community.”

The governor’s late March order shuttering most Massachusetts businesses and organizations carried a long list of exempt entities. Incidentally, Baker also extended his stay-at-home and business closure advisory to May 4 from April 27.

The full order order re: lodging can be found here. Per the order, those who are occupying short-term rentals, hotel rooms, etc., as of March 31 can stay until the end of their bookings—but they cannot extend.

Airbnb issued a statement shortly after the governor’s remarks that suggests it will comply with the request for non-leisure bookings only.

“Like Gov. Baker and officials across Massachusetts, we believe we need to do everything possible to limit the spread of COVID-19. That’s why Airbnb hosts across the Commonwealth are opening up their homes for free to medical workers and others who need safe places to stay and self-isolate near hospitals. As Airbnb becomes aware of new local policies across the nation, we are communicating them to our host and guest community, including in Massachusetts.”

We’re awaiting comment from the governor’s office about how the March 31 order might be enforced.

The state’s hospitality market was already reeling due to the novel coronavirus. The market in Greater Boston in particular went within just a couple of weeks from one of the strongest in the U.S. to full of empty rooms and drooping revenue for operators and owners. Several hotels have temporarily closed.