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Are hotel chains doing enough to protect customers during the pandemic?

Posted at 7:36 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 21:36:08-04

DENVER -- It's not the 1,000 thread-count sheets, the blissful spa or white-glove service that hotels are advertising these days. It's that... they're clean.

Hilton has a new marketing campaign called "Clean Stay" featuring Lysol protection and a partnership with the Mayo Clinic. Hyatt makes a "Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment" with advisers from the Cleveland Clinic. Marriott has a "Marriott Cleanliness Council." Best Western has "We Care Clean" and so on...

There are two very good reasons for this new commitment to hygiene: One, hotels have to convince people that it's safe to stay there again.

Hotel occupancy in the U.S. for the week ending August 1 was 48.9%. Yes, that is up from 22% in March but down a whopping 35% from this time last year.

The other reason is that a CDC study found the coronavirus in hotel rooms.

A study published in the upcoming September issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases looked at the hotel rooms of two people who tested positive for COVID-19.

In March, two Chinese students studying abroad returned to China and were put in an empty hotel for quarantine. On the second day, both tested positive and were hospitalized for treatment. For the two days they were in the hotel, neither had symptoms.

Tests were done on the surfaces of high-touch spots in both hotel rooms after they left.

Of the 22 samples taken, 36% tested positive for the coronavirus including sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels.

The heaviest viral load was found on the pillow cases and sheets.

You can see why hotels are beefing up and bragging about their cleaning protocols.

We looked at the new cleaning plans of seven major hotel groups that account for roughly 85% of all hotel rooms.

Each has its own spin but for the most part, they all claim to now be cleaning a lot more, focusing on high-touch spots like door handles and elevator buttons and using "hospital-grade disinfectants."

Most have touchless or nearly-touchless check-ins.

They all claim staff has been trained in cleaning. Choice Hotels, which owns Comfort Inn, Quality Inn and Clarion, has a designated "Commitment to Clean Captain" at each property.

Hyatt, a "Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader."

Most have removed extra stuff from rooms - pens, papers, decorative pillows.

Many have gone to pre-packaged food options, knock-and-drop room service and require masks for staff and guests.

Nice work, hotels, on this more rigorous cleaning. But if this were possible, shouldn't you have been doing it all along?

Water under the bridge.

The question at hand - are these measures enough?

Katie Carie, Assistant Vice President of Infection Prevention for Healthone in Denver, says all these things help.

More cleaning is better. Using hospital-grade disinfectants is better than not using them.

There is a chance, albeit small, that you can get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it then touching your face.

But Carie says the bottom line is that hotels are just another place where we shouldn't go if we're sick, where we should wash our hands a lot, where we should stay away from others and wear masks when we can't.

Stop me if this sounds familiar. Actually, I'm done.

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