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As many as 100,000 medical workers, first responders and relief workers worldwide who are combatting the coronavirus crisis could have free places to stay from online rental service Airbnb.

Airbnb hosts who typically make homes and apartments available to vacationers want to contribute to help those treating COVID-19 patients and fighting the virus' spread.

“We’ve heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders,"  said Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia in an announcement on the Airbnb website Thursday. "We are connecting our nonprofit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times.”

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To connect homes with personnel, Airbnb will work with businesses, government and emergency management agencies and nonprofits including the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, the company says.

Airbnb hosts can opt to make their homes open for free through Airbnb’s Open Homes platform, which the rental site created in 2012 for emergency housing. Airbnb will also waive fees for stays with hosts who cannot make homes available for free.

In Italy and France, nearly 6,000 Airbnb hosts have already made their homes available for doctors, nurses, caregivers and other medical support staff in two pilot programs, the company says.

Safe hosting requirements include listing of entire homes, enhanced cleaning, and allowing 72 hours between stays. Airbnb’s partners or affiliates will ensure that stays are COVID-19 related and responders are familiar with safety protocols. 

With the help of experts, Airbnb has developed new cleanliness protocols to take into account that dwellers may have higher exposure to the coronavirus and, possibly, COVID-19 patients. 

"As medical and relief workers require accommodation for response and preparedness, the Airbnb community is in a unique position to help," said Dr. Larry Brilliant, chairman of the advisory board of Ending Pandemics, an epidemiologist who assisted the World Health Organization's fight to end smallpox. "We are working to provide clear communication and resources, based on rapidly evolving knowledge about this novel virus and best practices on sanitation, in order to help keep communities as safe as possible."

For more information about hosting coronavirus responders and personnel – or to donate to the effort – go to the Airbnb website.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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