Short-term vacation rental plan for Sarasota County revised to include restrictions on people traveling from ‘hot spot’ areas

New guidelines for county businesses in effect as of June 15

Editor’s note: The Sarasota News Leader is providing general reporting on the novel coronavirus to readers for free as a public service.

These are ads for short-term vacation rentals on Siesta Key, as shown on the website on June 17. Image from

On June 15, Sarasota County administrative staff received state approval for updated guidelines for short-term vacation rentals.

The county plan was revised to conform to a June 5 Executive Order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The first criterion in the modified plan says, “Reservations will not be permitted nor new guests accepted for check-in from areas identified by Governor DeSantis through Executive Orders as high-risk (currently Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York); reservations made prior to an area being designated as high-risk can be honored. Areas may be added or deleted based upon further Executive Orders by the Governor without the need for further amendment of the plan.”

The second criterion says, “Reservations from areas identified by Florida’s Governor as COVID-19 hot spots through Executive Orders are to be avoided for the next 45 days.”

The document included a link to the webpage where all DeSantis’ Executive Orders may be accessed.

On June 10, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis sent the proposed revision to Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

On May 21, the county received the department’s required approval of its initial proposal for short-term vacation guidelines as the public health emergency continues. Those provisions went into effect on May 22, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

In his June 10 email to Beshears, Lewis wrote, “We appreciate your review and look forward to any comments. Upon receipt of approval, we would put this revised plan into effect soon thereafter.”

In a March 27 Executive Order, DeSantis called for short-term vacation rental businesses to cease operations. Subsequently, in Executive Order 20-123, which went into effect as of 12:01 a.m. on May 18, DeSantis allowed counties to seek the state approval of detailed plans that would enable those businesses to reopen.

Then, on June 5, in Executive Order 20-139, DeSantis extended Executive Orders 20-80 and 20-82 regarding visitors from specific states, “with exceptions for persons involved in commercial activity and students traveling for the purpose of academic work, internships, sports training and any other activity or program approved by the educational institution.”

Executive Order 20-80, issued on March 23, called for travelers to Florida from areas “with substantial community spread” of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to “isolate or quarantine” for 14 days from the time of their arrival in the state or for the duration of the persons’ visits, “whichever is shorter.”

DeSantis named “the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York).”

Executive Order 20-82 modified that restriction to exempt people “employed by the airlines and those performing military, emergency or health response.” It was dated March 24.

Three days later, DeSantis added Louisiana travelers to the list for self-isolation or quarantine.

This is a copy of the proposed, revised Sarasota County short-term vacation rental guidelines, which was submitted to the state for approval. The changes won state endorsement on June 15. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On its website, Visit Florida, the state tourism office, offers a wide array of information for people planning to come to the state, and it notes that the page is updated daily. Visit Florida prominently points on that webpage to DeSantis’ Executive Orders and also provides links to them. It further notes, “Airport screenings and roadside checkpoints are set up to check for potential COVID-19 cases.”

On its COVID-19 information page, Visit Sarasota County, the local tourism office, says, it “is not in a position to advise anyone regarding travel at this time.”

Visit Sarasota County’s webpage does note that the county vacation rentals plan was updated on June 11, after it initially went into effect on May 22.