Hawaii County mayor clarifies vacation rental reopening rule

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Hawaii County's mayor has issued new guidance enabling short term vacation rentals to begin operating again following a forced closure resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, but said the rule applies only to renters not subject to mandatory 14-day quarantines.

Mayor Harry Kim announced the rentals could reopen for business Friday, but then issued the quarantine clarification on Tuesday, West Hawaii Today reported.

Democratic Gov. David Ige issued the emergency proclamation in March requiring 14-day quarantines for all travellers arriving in Hawaii from outside the state. Ige last week extended the order to July 31.

Hawaii County's updated short-term rentals rule does not spell out the disparity, but Kim said there was no need to do so because the state order concerning traveller quarantines takes precedence.

“If you don’t have a residence here, you need to quarantine in a hotel," Kim said.

Kim's office said the state Department of the Attorney General issued guidance saying mayors can allow the opening of short-term rentals, but they are not permitted as quarantine locations.

A group of rental owners on four islands threatened a lawsuit against the continued closures earlier this month. Since then, all counties except Oahu have allowed the rentals to reopen to patrons who are not under quarantine.

Hawaii County Planning Director Michael Yee sent an email Friday to 5,000 short-term vacation rental owners and managers informing them of the updated rule.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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