In response to growing alarm about people fleeing to the Berkshires to escape cities besieged by the coronavirus pandemic, one county legislator is asking Gov. Charlie Baker to shut down the short-term rental industry, at least in Berkshire County.

Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Sunday that he contacted Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito Saturday about what he says should be a decisive order that would not allow any kind of hotel or inn to allow guests. The only exception would be for traveling medical workers, or for use if more beds are needed to contend with a surge in patients.

He said that Baker could order a temporary shutdown statewide the way Vermont has, or apply it only to Berkshire County.

Pignatelli said while Baker and town officials are urging visitors to stay home and asking second-home owners to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, they can't regulate rentals through online sites like Airbnb.

There's no local oversight or registration to identify which homes or buildings are hosting guests, Pignatelli said. While some of the online sites are offering refunds, it is still possible to book a stay.

Read more on The Berkshire Eagle now.



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