As many of us have heard in the media, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have issued Executive Orders forcing anyone from Arizona (and several other states with identified COVID “hot spots”) to be in 14-day quarantine after arrival.
It is notable that Arizona did not take this reciprocal action when these same states were in crisis just months earlier.
For a brief period of time, STRs were advertised as a “place to go” to get out of these same states and escape COVID. Most of the platforms like Airbnb forced removal of this language, but the damage was done. Sadly, some of the increase in COVID cases Arizona is experiencing now is likely due to this turn of events.
Resorts and hotels are highly regulated regarding public health compliance. This includes cleaning and disinfecting of facilities following the departure of a guest and in all public areas.
Nearly all hotel chains have issued requirements as well that apply to hotels operating under their brand license. Most of these requirements go well beyond the CDC recommendation and include fogging and misting in areas to enhance disinfectant.
Unfortunately, STRs are not subject to public health regulations.
In most cases, there is no supervision of the cleaning protocols at STRs at all.
Some platform companies have hired national experts to make recommendations, but these are not requirements.
Most STRs do not thoroughly clean the facility after guests have departed.
Most certainly they do not clean to the level of resorts and hotels.
In at least one case, the renter complained that the sheets were not even changed. One platform company indicated that they were placing a time limit of at least 72 hours after a guest has departed before the facility could be rented by another.
Presumably this is to let any potential COVID become inactive. But this is not enforced and is only voluntary.
The state of Arizona has been one of the hardest hit states by rising unemployment due to the COVID epidemic. Further, the resort, hotel travel and entertainment business has led with the biggest hit of all.
Very recently, an additional 6,000 more people have been laid off as reported by the latest WARN notice. This is a state law that requires companies to formally notify the state prior to a large layoff.
Another 89 employers have alerted the state they have let go employees amid negative effects from the coronavirus closures. That has impacted a total of another 16,747 workers. And these are just several weeks of early numbers.
The list of properties negatively affected by COVID is too long to list here. But they include a number of prominent resorts and hotels that are the jewels of the Phoenix metro area like: The Phoenician, Westin Kierland, Sanctuary, Mountain Shadows, Omni Montelucia, and The Hermosa Inn --- just to name a few.
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley, Gilbert and Chandler --- have been hugely impacted by the reduction in occupancy and sales taxes. Even smaller communities have also been negatively impacted.
In fact, a report released last week from Oxford Economics shows the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the hotel industry will cost Arizona $312.5 million in lost tax revenue in 2020.
This pales by comparison to any tax revenue from STRs. We should place a pause on the STRs in Arizona to promote the resorts and hotels that make our great community a national and international destination.
Two separate STR locations were used for looters as staging areas during the recent rioting and looting in Phoenix and Scottsdale. We need to protect our communities during this unsettling time.
We should place a pause on STR during the COVID epidemic resulting partly in some of the unrest that we have seen in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.
Many STR have been used as “party houses.” A recent listing on Airbnb is that one property would sleep 33 people.
In one case, an STR was recently used during the COVID epidemic to sleep 40 men from New York for a bachelor party.
These party houses are a blight on the neighborhoods where they are located.
Nearby residents are apoplectic that local cities cannot regulate these to provide local zoning like limiting the number of un-related residents. But beyond the huge nuisance, hassle and likely reduction in property values for nearby homes, we now are faced with large numbers of outsiders coming to Arizona from high COVID pandemic locations and not practicing social distancing.
Many of these rentals are placing large number of unrelated people together to party. Presumably at least part of our recent spike in Arizona COVID is due to this type of lack of social distancing.
Further, these individuals go to local grocery stores, retail outlets and recently opened restaurants alarmingly and potentially spreading the COVID into our communities.
It really drips with irony that New York is forcing a quarantine on Arizona residents traveling into New York right now.
How much of our Arizona increase in COVID is due to the many New Yorkers who traveled here from New York during the height of the New York pandemic and stayed at an STR using no social distancing.
Does anyone believe that 40 men traveling from New York at the height of the pandemic in New York and staying at a single STR with no social distancing posed no threat to Arizona residents?
At a minimum, we need an Executive Order to limit unrelated people congregating in STRs. And even better, we should place a pause on STR during the COVID epidemic to protect Arizona residents or at a minimum permit local towns and cities to regulate them.
Governor Ducey, please issue an executive order now to protect us.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Dickman is a retired health care CEO and a long-time resident of Arizona currently residing in Paradise Valley.