As other Hawaii counties prepare to loosen restrictions on vacation rentals in anticipation of the reopening of trans-Pacific tourism, Oahu rentals remain under health restrictions imposed at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s emergency orders prohibit Oahu’s vacation rentals from operating as essential businesses, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.
“Illegal rentals remain a problem on Oahu,” said Caldwell, who wants to determine the impact of modifying quarantine rules for visitors from outside the state before agreeing to lift the rental restriction.
“I would not want to see violators in our communities, where it is more difficult to monitor them,” he said.
The mayors of Kauai, the Big Island and Maui temporarily shuttered vacation rentals because of the pandemic. But they began allowing legal vacation rentals to reopen June 16 for guests who no longer have to undergo quarantine.
The timing coincided with Democratic Gov. David Ige lifting a mandatory 14-day quarantine for interisland passengers.
A 14-day quarantine for out-of-state passengers remains in effect through July 31, and Ige is expected to extend the rule. Yet passengers with approved negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their departure for Hawaii may bypass the quarantine beginning Aug. 1.
Larry Bartley of Save Oahu’s Neighborhoods said he has received comments from residents about illegal vacation rentals filling up again and that some tourists staying in the units are not following quarantine rules.
Andreea Grigore, vice president of property management for Elite Pacific Properties, said vacation rentals are not being treated equally with other businesses in the accommodations sector.
“Mayor Caldwell’s glaring omission of legal vacation rentals from any reopening plans on Oahu is discriminatory against lawfully operating, tax-paying vacation rental owners and operators,” Grigore said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.