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Tri-Town Health urges lodging industry compliance with self-quarantine advisory

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LEE — The Tri-Town Health Department is asking the lodging industry in Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge — including short-term rental hosts using Airbnb and other online companies — to postpone any pending bookings from guests in coronavirus "hot spots," such as the New York City area.

In a letter issued Thursday, Tri-Town Health Executive Director James J. Wilusz cited Tuesday's recommendation from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that anyone traveling from the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Some full-time Berkshire residents have voiced concern on social media that second homeowners and visitors relocating temporarily to the county from New York could expose locals to the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Addressing hotel, rental and STR owners, Wilusz asked that "if you receive any bookings or inquiries from any person from this area (or any other area deemed as a COVID-19 hotspot) we are requesting that you postpone any bookings until COVID-19 is defeated."

In a phone interview, Wilusz emphasized that his letter is not aimed at nor does it apply to second homeowners who have moved into their Berkshire residences to wait out the worst of the pandemic.

"This is meant as a call to action, to get the message out there," he said. "People still have the rights to their homes, we're not issuing this to be super-aggressive and we're not targeting specific areas."

Wilusz also stressed that "everyone is struggling and, if we don't do our part, this isn't going away."

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In his emailed letter, he alerted lodging hosts that "if a resident is found to test positive for COVID-19 who is residing at one of your properties, there will be a mandatory Isolation order issued by the local board of health and occupants will be unable to leave until they are medically cleared (which could be longer than 14 days) regardless of their commitment on your booking."

In a related move, Wilusz told The Eagle that he is asking the state to consider posting electronic signs on major roadways entering Berkshire County from New York alerting visitors to the 14-day self-quarantine advisory.

"If people are coming into our towns that are traveling from certain areas, we will require a 14-day quarantine of those people," he stated.

Wilusz pointed out that people traveling into the three towns from out of the area "may be unaware of the self-quarantine guidance and could further aid in the spread of the virus."

He also cautioned lodging proprietors and short-term rental hosts that "in certain cases, the local board of health may require additional actions to prevent further spread that may include a comprehensive sanitizing and disinfection of the property at your expense."

Tri-Town Health, established in 1929, is overseen by a collaboration of Board of Health members from Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge and is the only multi-town regional health department in Berkshire County.

Wilusz, whose full title is Executive Director of Public Health/Registered Sanitarian, also sent his letter to the Select Boards of the three towns, the Boards of Health and to Christopher Ketchen, the Lee-Lenox Chief Administrative Officer.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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