Summit County officials to change public health order, giving short-term lodging companies more leeway
Summit County officials will be releasing a new public health order next week to clarify how short-term lodging companies should go about confirming the number of households in one reservation.
Summit County Manager Scott Vargo announced the change at a Board of Health meeting Thursday, Jan. 14. Vargo said the new order likely won’t go into effect until Friday, Jan. 22, to allow for lodging companies to adjust.
The current order states that “owners and/or entities responsible for the booking and renting of short-term lodging units must confirm the identity of all renters upon arrival” to ensure that the group doesn’t violate the state’s public health order, which limits gatherings to two households under level orange restrictions.
The proposed language for the new order says short-term lodging companies must “confirm renters are aware of and are in compliance with gathering size limits” mandated by the state’s public health order.
The goal of the change is to simplify the process for confirming customers’ identities. Under the current order, short-term lodging companies are liable if a guest breaks public health rules. The change will put that liability on the guests instead.
“The change is trying to clarify what the expectation is and simplifying how property managers, property owners, are able to verify or confirm the folks that are renting those properties are aware of the rule and in compliance with the rules,” Vargo said.
The county also created a sample form for short-term lodging companies to give to guests ahead of arrival. The form requires the person who made the reservation to certify that they have reviewed the local and state public health order and are aware that a violation could mean a fine of up to $5,000 or up to 18 months in jail.
“They don’t have to use this form, but I would suspect that most will take advantage of something that’s been prepared or take the language from this form and plug it into whatever electronic system that they may be using or other check-in model that they’re taking advantage of,” Vargo said.
Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the goal of the change is to make the process as easy as possible for lodging companies.
“The idea is they’ll not be required to look for any more form of ID from their guests,” she said. “By asking their guests to sign the affidavit, it limits and mitigates some of the liability to the personal company if folks choose to misrepresent what is actually happening.”
County officials also hope the change will create some parity between what the county is doing for lodging companies and the rules for restaurants, which are not required to confirm the identity of guests unless they are five-star certified.
At the meeting, Vargo also said the county will not be making adjustments to alcohol-consumption rules for restaurants that are in the 5 Star Business Certification Program for at least a week.
Currently, all restaurants must cease the sale and consumption of alcohol at 9:30 p.m. However, some restaurant owners are pushing for the county to allow alcohol to be on a table until 10 p.m. at five-star certified restaurants.
Because the county is in the midst of a bump in cases due to the holidays, officials are putting a pause on making that change.
“Our recommendation from staff and from (Public Health Director Amy Wineland) is that we push and wait and see where do those numbers go?” Vargo said. “Do we start to settle back down? Or do we start to see that trend continuing to go up?”
Wineland said the county should know by Thursday, Jan. 21, whether the bump in cases has been suppressed.
Pogue said she hopes the county will be able to make the change sooner rather than later.
“I really don’t want to drag this on,” Pogue said. “I don’t think there’s great data to justify the change from the state’s restriction in this space.”