PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Short-term rental property owners in Pennsylvania continue to advertise lodging in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown order, administration officials said Wednesday. Wolf banned short-term residential rentals last week after state lawmakers in the Pocono Mountains complained that property owners had been trying to entice travelers from virus hotspots New Jersey and New York.
But owners are continuing to advertise availability using Airbnb, VRBO and other platforms, “unnecessarily putting the health of the public in even greater jeopardy than is already the case,” wrote Dennis M. Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Davin wrote to Airbnb Inc. and Expedia Group, which owns VRBO, asking them to tell hosts who are violating the shutdown order that they are not allowed to operate.
Davin said the administration is seeking voluntary compliance but warned of “significant consequences” for short-term rental owners if they don’t stop advertising availability.
Airbnb has said its hosts may not reference “COVID-19,” “coronavirus” or “quarantine” in listing titles, advertise themselves as virus-free or encourage guests to ignore travel advisories. Expedia has offered similar guidance. Both platforms say violators can have their listings removed.
The Associated Press emailed Airbnb and Expedia seeking comment on the Wolf administration’s allegations.
In other coronavirus developments Wednesday:
Wolf ordered flags at all state buildings and grounds to be lowered to half-staff until further notice to honor victims of the pandemic. He invited all Pennsylvania residents to follow suit.
“Too many Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and, unfortunately, many more will die,” Wolf said in a written statement.
“This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends,” he wrote.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.