Empty hotels turn into quarantine of coronaviruses, emergency accommodation to “keep the lights on”

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A member of the New York Army National Guard walks past boxes of medical equipment at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, United States, Monday, March 23, 2020. Construction will begin this week to transform the convention Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan’s 1,000-bed hospital is a first step toward doubling that number, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cash-strapped and empty hotels across the country are finding ways to keep the lights on by turning into coronavirus rooms or temporary National Guard accommodation or exhausted doctors and nurses.

It provides much-needed income for an industry knocked down by the COVID-19 epidemic that has spread to more than 1.4 million people in almost every country in the world. World, national, state and local leaders have imposed various travel restrictions, closed tourist attractions, issued large shelter orders on the spot and even authorized heavy fines for those who do not adhere to the rules of social distancing.

The hotels’ financial results are worse than during the 2008 financial crisis, according to industry leaders and analysts. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, up to 4 million hotel workers, from receptionists to maintenance workers, have already been laid off or will be laid off soon, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The group, the US Travel Association and hotel CEOs met with President Donald Trump and other White House officials on March 17 to lobby for $ 150 billion in federal aid to help cover some of the effects devastating economic consequences of the pandemic.

Large and small hotels are looking for ways to survive unprecedented economic benefits, with some finding financial relief in government partnerships housing medical workers and front line soldiers.

Chicago

Chicago was among the first cities to sign an agreement on such a partnership. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced last month that the city had started to rent 200 “underused” rooms from the One Sixty-Six hotel to provide space for infected patients and those awaiting test results and who wish a quarantine area.

Lightfoot said last week that the city was renting the Essex Hotel in Chicago’s South Loop to provide housing for first responders, including health workers and emergency medical technicians.

“Our health care professionals and our first responders are working around the clock and putting their lives on the line to deal with this crisis and keep our city safe,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Just as they supported us, we must support them. I would like to thank our hotel partners for coming to Chicago again during our hour of need. “

Lightfoot previously estimated that the city would pay about $ 1 million to each hotel to rent all of their rooms for a month.

Balanced

Money is the “bare minimum to break even,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO and president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. He said hotels in Illinois have laid off tens of thousands of workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In no case does a hotel earn money from it. The rates they negotiate are greatly reduced, “said Jacobson. “It is a way to keep some of our employees in hotels,” adding that such agreements are unlikely to keep the staff full.

Imprint Hospitality, which owns nine properties across Virginia, Maryland, Colorado and New Mexico, has rented a number of rooms at its Salida Inn & Monarch Suites in Salida, Colorado to house members of the National Guard, according to his managing partner Alex Walterspiel. She says the National Guard has been called to the county to help local health officials conduct mass tests of COVID-19 in the midst of a burgeoning epidemic in the state.

Not a time for profit

Walterspiel says all of Imprint’s hotels remained open as essential businesses, but only 5% of their rooms were rented in March, compared to a typical occupancy rate of around 80%. Of the company’s 200-odd employees, 185 have been put on leave, she said.

We are trying to find a happy medium to meet the needs of those arriving, while being able to charge enough so that we can bring in our maids and pay for them, “she said. “This is not the time when we are going to enjoy anything. This is the time when we just need to charge enough so that we can keep our doors open. “

Walterspiel said it is actively seeking more partnerships with government officials in other communities where Imprint owns property.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which represents Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice Hotels and others, is looking for similar partnerships across the country. Troy Flanagan, executive vice president of local and local government affairs for the association, said he was in contact with city and state officials, as well as federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, to put them in contact with hotels that can support COVID-19. response efforts.

Keep the lights on

“This is the moment, I think, when businesses across the country are looking for non-traditional ways to keep the lights on,” said Flanagan. “Our members meet with local and state officials to meet their housing needs. “

Unite Here, which represents 300,000 North American workers in a variety of industries, including accommodation, supports such partnerships. The union warned that worker safety must be a priority.

“Workers need more protection than ever,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Meghan Cohorst. “Unite Here works with many cities to ensure that our industry is mobilized to do its part, but every possible step is taken to limit the risk to hotel employees. “

The parking lot is near a Hampton Inn hotel on March 24, 2020 in Rockford, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

California

California authorities have rented two hotels near Oakland Airport for quarantining the homeless and are working to secure 51,000 hotel rooms across the state, Governor Gavin announced. Newsom. Los Angeles announced on March 20 that it is renting the Sheraton Fairplex hotel in Pomona to provide temporary accommodation to those sentenced to isolation or quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.

San Francisco officials are in talks to rent up to 6,500 hotel rooms for patients with mild symptoms and first responders, according to Kevin Carroll, executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. The city pays up to $ 213 a day to house and feed lone patients in hotel rooms, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and that rate drops to $ 164 a day to house first responders. If the room is empty, the city will still pay $ 79 a day to keep it, the Chronicle reported.

“Hopefully it will be a win-win situation where hotels can stay open, and in some cases they can bring employees to work and it will also help a city in need,” said Carroll. “The hotels arrive with rates for working with the city. “

New York City

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on April 1 that the city had rented 20 hotels to add 10,000 beds to the two first responders who want temporary accommodation while they interact with COVID-19 patients and to increase the hospital capacity of the city. De Blasio said renting more hotels will be “the key” to the city’s COVID-19 response efforts.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a press conference as the hospital ship USNS Comfort arrives at Pier 90 in New York, United States, Monday, March 30, 2020.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“I am very, very sorry for what the hotel industry has gone through in this crisis. Many people have been put in a very difficult position to work in our hotels. They are obviously in trouble, “said de Blasio at a press conference. news briefing. “But what that means at the same time is that a large number of hotels have become available for New York City and we can literally go in and rent an entire hotel building and we can do that dozens and dozens and dozens of times until we get to the point of having all the beds we need. “

Last month, officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they were working with the Cuomo government and officials from 12 other states to redevelop facilities such as hotels and college dorms as emergency hospitals and treatment centers.

“People don’t have jobs”

“These hotels are empty. People don’t have jobs, “Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief engineer and commanding general of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, said at a press conference. “We would go and cut a contract so that the state could enter into a lease with this particular facility, and then take over the building. “

A view United States Army Corps of Engineer command truck parked outside Javitz Center, a temporary hospital for Covid-19 patients amid the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) March 26, 2020 in New York City.

John Nacion | NurPhoto | Getty Images

In Baltimore, Governor Larry Hogan said the Baltimore Convention Center and the neighboring Hilton Hotel will be used as temporary field hospitals due to warnings of shortages of hospital beds.

The Greektown Casino-Hotel in downtown Detroit offers free rooms to first responders, including police, fire and paramedics.

“Greektown Casino has stepped up its activities and offered free hotel rooms to our first responders who had family members at home that they did not want to go home and potentially infect,” said the mayor of Detroit on Tuesday. , Mike Duggan.

Seattle

In the city of Kent, outside Seattle, local authorities rushed to buy a dilapidated EconoLodge for $ 4 million in early March to convert the motel to quarantine. But the decision did not go well with everyone in King County, which was particularly affected. Kent mayor Dana Ralph then ordered the city attorney to file a prohibition order against the county to suspend work on the quarantine motel, but was later refused, local reports said.

Frank Riedo, medical director of infection control at Evergreen Health Hospital speaks speaks following the death of a resident of King County, Washington due to a new coronavirus (COVID-19) at a press conference in Seattle, Washington.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

These types of partnerships with cities, towns and federal agencies are a kind of saving grace for 95% of the country’s hotels owned by small businesses and individuals, said Raymond Crow’s analyst Bill Crow. He said hotels around the world will suffer at least for the next few months, but these initiatives are helping to move money and keep employees working.

“They have beds. They have dining rooms or kitchens. They have the ability to take care of people, “he said. “What we would like to be able to do is fill these hotels to cover the variable costs, feel like we are doing a good thing for the city and for the country, and then emerge and live to fight another day.” “

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