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Sarasota Monday, Mar. 30, 2020 2 months ago

Sarasota County closes vacation rentals, leaves boat ramps open

Following a statewide directive, the county closes its vacation rental properties for two weeks. Noncompliance could result in a 2nd degree misdemeanor.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Sarasota County officials are following the state’s directive on vacation rentals and are asking any county vacation rentals, including those listed on Airbnb, to shut down for two weeks. 

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that suspends vacation rentals statewide for two weeks.

The order notes that Florida is experiencing an increase in individuals who are fleeing to Florida from states where shelter-in-place orders are being implemented. 

The county now asks all vacation rental owners to comply with the ordinance. If they do not, it could result in a second degree misdemeanor. 

"We know this greatly impacts our local business owners, especially those that rely on vacation rentals as their source of income, but in order to protect ourselves and our families, we must abide by the governor's direction," County Commission Chair Mike Moran said. "The harder we push back agains this virus and the more we work together as a community, the quicker it will be over and we can return to normal." 

DeSantis also ordered checkpoints along major Florida highways, where county sheriff deputies and state troopers are authorized to stop people coming from Louisiana and require them to self-isolate for 14 days. This follows a similar order on flights coming from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said the county will not have any checkpoints and will not be stopping any vehicles from out of state. 

"Many of these vehicles have already been here. They may be here from New York state as seasonal residents that live here part time and those vehicles are permanently kept here in Florida and tagged in New York," Knight said. 

Therefore, residents do not need to call the sheriff's department if they see a car with a license plate from one of the affected states, Knight said. 

County employees continue to follow guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said. Many county services have moved to online-only, though Lewis asks that members of the public keep their distance from essential employees such as bus drivers and utility workers. 

Although the city of Sarasota has closed all boat ramps, county officials say there are no plans to close county ramps at this time. The county offers 13 motorized boat launches and 29 non-motorized launches at parks such as Bayfront Park and Blackburn Point Park. 

Lewis also said the county does not plan to issue a safer-at-home order. 

"What we believe they do is repeat the director that comes from our governor and our health agencies, which is to use good practices, good hygiene, keep those groups 10 or less and spacing," Lewis sad. "Here in Sarasota County, we believe our residents are smart, competent people and they're making good choices every day." 

Currently, there are 61 positive COVID-19 cases in Sarasota County. 

Chuck Henry, health officer with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, said there are active cases in two elderly care facilities, though he would not disclose which two.  

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