Vacation rentals approved in 16 Florida counties

With local and state officials moving quickly, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has approved plans that allow vacation-rental properties to operate in 16 counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in late March banned vacation rentals in an executive order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. He said the move was meant to discourage visitors from places known to be hot spots for the virus, like New York and Louisiana.

The directive did not apply to hotels, motels and time-shares. But last week, DeSantis said vacation-rental properties could operate if counties submit plans to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which would have to sign off.

As of early Wednesday evening, the department had approved plans for Bay, Charlotte, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Lee, Levy, Nassau, Okaloosa, Osceola, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, St. Johns, Wakulla and Walton counties, according to a list on the department website.

Plans submitted by the counties include precautions to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Tourism is a major part of our local and state economies,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said in a prepared statement after the Duval County plan was approved. “By getting these businesses back up and running in a responsible way, we are helping employees and their families get back on their feet and return to some sense of normalcy.”