The online rental company AirBnB said it plans to crack down on July Fourth house parties this coming holiday weekend–a date that state and federal health officials are eyeing as a milestone for returning to a large semblance of pre-pandemic life.
Under the new restrictions, announced on April 12, certain guests will be barred from one-night reservations across the country during the July Fourth weekend. Certain local and last-minute bookings will also be prohibited, and reservations will be blocked.
The restrictions will be limited to guests without enough positive reviews on AirBnB, and those who meet the threshold, or those who’ve already booked their reservations, will not be affected.
Last summer, authorities in New Jersey broke up several large house parties that were rented out via AirBnB, including a 700-person event in Jackson that was attended by teens and young adults.
Large youth parties drove up COVID case spikes across the nation in late July 2020, prompting Gov. Phil Murphy to limit gathering sizes at the time. That prompted AirBnB to cancel dozens of reservations it suspected were intended for similar parties.
“As we look to celebrate the ‘return to normal’ over the Fourth of July, including the long-awaited chance to gather with family and friends, we believe restricting high-risk 1-night will help reduce the number of potentially unsafe large gatherings that are in violation of our policies,” reads an April 12 email from Samuel Randall, a spokesperson for AirBnB.
The restrictions do not extend to Memorial Day weekend – Randell said – often considered the unofficial start of the summer.
But, with warmer weather increasingly common, Murphy has urged New Jerseyans to limit their gatherings to outdoors as much as possible.
“As the weather continues to warm, we can look to more outside activities where we know we can gather more safely,” he said during a daily COVID-19 press briefing on April 5.
He warned last year that “[w]hen there are hundreds of people crammed into a house where the air conditioning system is simply blowing air around and also people aren’t wearing face coverings, you have also invited coronavirus to your party.”