As outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to spread throughout the United States, hotels are working hard to adapt. While half of U.S. hotels are anticipated to close amidst the crisis, those remaining in operation are working hard to ensure that the risk of infection is minimized for both guests and employees.
How Hotels are Responding to Covid-19
Many hotels are responding to COVID-19-related concerns with increased housekeeping measures. In addition to swapping their regular cleaning products with EPA-approved antiviral products, hotels are making an effort to disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as light switches, elevator buttons, doors, and door handles, more frequently. Linens and surfaces in common areas, such as front-desk counters, are also being disinfected regularly.
Regarding food service, employers are mandating and monitoring regularly scheduled hand-washing for employees. Several hotels have adapted their food and drink service in order to minimize contact. For example, some businesses have converted their food services to grab-and-go or prepackaged options. Others have shifted from buffet-style to employee-served dining. Many hotels have also closed their in-house restaurants and bars.
Guests are being asked to limit their time spent in high-traffic areas, such as the hotel lobby or elevator. Some businesses have gone as far as limiting elevator usage to those unable to take the stairs in an attempt to minimize contact with high-touch surfaces and other guests in crowded elevators. In hotels with lower-than-usual occupancy rates, guests are booked several empty rooms apart in order to prevent close contact between them.
Protecting Employess From Covid-19
In order to protect employees from exposure to the virus while at work, hotels are permitting staff members to wear masks as part of their uniform and are encouraging housekeeping staff to wear gloves whenever working. Front-desk employees are being given disinfectant wipes that can be used to clean their workspace between customers, and all staff are advised to practice social distancing, remaining at least six feet from guests and other workers.
Managing Guests Who Appear Ill
One of the most difficult decisions that hotels have had to make regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, however, is how to manage guests who appear ill. Hotels remaining in operation have had to update their protocols to address issues such as how frequently rooms must be cleaned and how to handle guests displaying symptoms of the virus.
Some hotels have made the difficult decision to provide lodging to those seeking to self-quarantine so that they do not spread the virus within the community. All hotels, regardless of their self-quarantine policy, are asking that anyone who is symptomatic notify management as soon as possible.
Guests who are allowed to quarantine on-property are asked to remain inside their hotel rooms at all times, and are required to check in using a separate entrance and “front-desk”. Rooms for quarantined guests are located at a safe distance from other guests. In order to assist health officials should anyone test positive for COVID-19, hotels are also keeping records of which employees and guests have come into content with one another.
As the world grapples with the effects of COVID-19, the hospitality industry is doing its best to adapt. Despite decreased travel and low occupancy levels, many hotels are working to create a low-risk experience for those guests that are still checking in. Through increased housekeeping measures and strict guidelines for employees regarding personal hygiene and social distancing, hotels are hard at work minimizing the risk of infection for guests and employees.
Hotels and travelers looking to stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding COVID-19 are encouraged to visit the Center for Disease Control website, which will be regularly providing updates on the virus and related best practices.