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April 01, 2020

Pennsylvania plans to ban Airbnb rentals as COVID-19 cases rise in Poconos

As visitors flee hotspots to stay in remote locations, the coronavirus is coming with them

Rentals Coronavirus
Poconos Coronavirus Rentals Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is looking to curb a rise in coronavirus cases in the Poconos by removing Airbnb and other property rentals from the state's list of life-sustaining businesses.

The Wolf administration is poised to end short-term rentals in northeastern Pennsylvania, including Airbnbs, that seek to advertise properties as escapes from the coronavirus, according to officials.

State officials are creating guidance to remove Airbnb from the list of life-sustaining businesses that have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 crisis, state Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

"Beginning now Airbnb's and other short-term rentals will be added to the Governor's list of non-life sustaining businesses," Scavello wrote. "They will not be allowed going forward under the current circumstances. I want to thank the Governor and his administration for listening to the people of Northampton and Monroe Counties and making this change!"

The move comes as COVID-19 cases rise sharply in the Poconos, a common retreat for vacationers across the Northeast.

Monroe County had 278 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the most per-capita in Pennsylvania, as of Wednesday afternoon. Its eight deaths were the tied for the second-most among Pennsylvania counties. Governor Wolf extended the state's stay-at-home order to all counties on Wednesday. 

"The governor believes that short-term rental properties should not be in operation and the administration is working on guidance to address this," Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger told PhillyVoice on Wednesday morning.

Some listings on sites like, Wallenpaupack Vacation Rentals and Pocono Rentals have portrayed properties as "coronavirus free" and ideal for social distancing, according to LehighValleyLive.

"There is nothing that's essential about a short-term rental in the Poconos, so we have shut them down," Wolf said Wednesday. 

It's not yet clear whether the Wolf administration's ban will be extended to other parts of the state, where it could more likely impact families of health care workers who seek safe housing arrangements to avoid exposure.

States around the country have grown wary of out-of-state travelers who may bring the virus with them, most notably Florida, which is conducting vehicle checks and ordering travelers from New York and Louisiana into self-quarantine. Rhode Island is requiring visitors from all 49 other states to do the same.

In Philadelphia, the health department has advised people who arrive from New York to isolate for 14 days upon their arrival to prevent spreading the illness.