Is It Safe to Rent an Airbnb or Vacation Rental Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic?


With Memorial Day serving as the unofficial start to summer, people are itching to get out of their homes and enjoy the weather.

As many businesses begin to reopen following previously imposed closures, many Amercians are considering a safe and gradual return to travel. Some might even attempt to take their pre-planned vacations.

Despite AAA expecting “record-low” travel for the long-weekend holiday, they have also noticed a modest uptick in online bookings since about mid-April.

One of the first things you consider when planning a vacation is where you’ll be staying.

Airbnb rentals have often been viewed as a more private and isolated alternative to hotels, but now that social distancing measures are being enforced, people are more likely to book a vacation home rental over a hotel room.

Is it wise? If you’re contemplating staying in an Airbnb, here are some things to consider including the virus-related risks.

How Often Is The Property Rented?

Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine/St Louis Children's Hospital told NBC that it’s crucial to leave a grace period between renters.

“From the study that evaluated how long the virus persists on surfaces, we know the virus can be stable on some surfaces for up to three days,” he explained. “The longer the home has been unoccupied, the better. I would be concerned there could be infectious virus if someone was in the home in the past day or two, but after about three days, I think the risk is exceedingly small.

Dr. Thomas A. Russo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences told Business Insider that the virus is transmitted by touching an infected area and then touching your face.

He assured that the risk lessens over time, so if the property is cleaned and some time passes between guests, the risk of getting infected is low.

Janowski also suggested taking additional precautions such as asking the renter how much time passes since someone rented the property and getting the answer in writing.

Get Familiar with the Cleaning Guidelines

Since the outbreak, many rental properties are taking cleanliness to a new level with mandatory cleaning guidelines.

VRBO has established a waiting period of 24 hours before allowing a new renter into a property.

In late April, Airbnb adopted a Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, a CDC recommended cleaning protocol that offers hosts three different options for listing their homes. These guidelines include wearing gloves and masks and waiting 24-hours after a guest checks out before entering to clean.

If a host cannot meet the cleaning requirements suggested, the company will hold bookings for a 72-hour period.

"While both options were designed with an aim of preventing the spread of COVID-19, we encourage hosts to adopt and commit to the Cleaning Protocol," the spokesperson explained. "If a host cannot access specific products, or is unable to commit to the Cleaning Protocol personally, or on behalf of outsourced cleaning providers, they have the alternative to opt into the Booking Buffer tool, while following local guidance and CDC recommendations."

Wipe Down Items Upon Arrival

Of course, wiping down the property yourself once you enter the premises is also encouraged.

The CDC recommends cleaning high-touch items like phones, TV remotes, door handles, bathroom faucets, and toilet handles. Additionally, you can disinfect tables, hard-backed chairs, light switches, keyboards, desks, toilets and sinks.

If you plan on using any of the plates, cups, or silverware, gives those a rinse as well.

"If you want to be safe, run utensils and dishware through the dishwasher when you get there and that should take care of that," Russo said. You can do this as well for laundering bed linens and towels "so you have control of what you want to be washed and cleaned."

Rentals with a Common Areas

If the rental is located in a shared rental, always be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching objects in the common area.

Health officials believe the virus spreads similar to the flu through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) encourages people to wash their hands thoroughly, use hand sanitizer, and cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.

See the WHO step-by-step guide to proper hand washing right here.

Is The Pool Safe?

Pools are typically safe as the quarantine will break down the virus. It’s more important to practice social distancing with the people you come in contact with in the nearby the pool area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, water play areas, spa, or hot tubs. Public places where people can go into the water should disinfect the water with chlorine and bromine.

Disinfecting the water “should inactivate the virus in the water,” the CDC said.

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