The county council voted unanimously Thursday to allow short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfasts to resume operations in Talbot. The measure took effect immediately.
The vote came during a special Thursday morning meeting to amend the county’s emergency order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Talbot County Council had shut down those rental operations in the early phases of the emergency.
The amended order requires STR and B&B owners to provide guests with:
• the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines on “Coronavirus and Travel in the United States,”
• links to the websites of the county’s incorporated towns to be aware of town restrictions on beaches and parks, and
• recommendations on bringing their own supplies (such as hand sanitizer and masks) and using delivery services and curbside pickup for groceries, meals, and other goods while staying in Talbot County.
Talbot County Council President Corey Pack said guests should be aware of any additional restrictions imposed by the towns.
For example, beaches and parks in Oxford were still closed, he said Thursday morning.
Pack, noting his own hesitation due to health and safety concerns, said Dr. Fredia Wadley, the county’s health officer, and Clay Stamp, Talbot’s emergency services director, were comfortable with re-opening STRs and B&Bs.
Councilman Pete Lesher said he had heard from a number of constituents on both sides.
“We are relying on the professional advice” from Wadley and Stamp, Lesher said.
“We can’t require they use a delivery service, we can’t require they bring (their own supplies),” Councilwoman Laura Price said. “We already know we can’t buy hand sanitizer, we can’t buy PPE (personal protective equipment)…. We can require the document be sent out.”
Talbot’s emergency order will be extended to June 30 and the term of any licenses issued by the county will be extended to July 31.
The council will consider additional changes to the emergency order, including the process of re-opening county buildings to the public, at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Lesher said the county needed to consider three questions:
• How to re-open buildings, including whether access should be by appointment only, and the need for additional safety measures, such as plexiglas shields
• How to handle meetings of the county’s various boards and commissions, whether with limited public access or by using teleconferences, video meetings, or livestreaming
• When and how the county council will allow some sort of public access to council meetings.
County Manager Andy Hollis said he was developing a draft re-opening plan and would provide that to council members before Tuesday’s meeting.
The council also voted to send a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan asking him to allow takeout customers to eat their meal at the restaurant’s outdoor dining area, subject to social distancing requirements.