For the latest information and resources on Coronavirus, please visit the RCM&D COVID-19 Resource Center at https://info.rcmd.com/covid19.
Members of the Real Estate and Hospitality industries are undoubtedly concerned about the state of the Coronavirus pandemic. They are looking for answers when it comes to protecting themselves, their employees and their guests/tenants during the outbreak. This blog will provide guidelines for hotels and apartment complexes to help prevent the spread of the virus and continue operations in a safe manner.
What Can We Do To Protect Employees, Guests, and Tenants?
- Inform guests/tenants that sanitizers are available and that management has introduced risk management measures to protect their safety and health.
- Reduce the number of staff members to only essential personnel. Only employees who must be on the premises to ensure the operation of essential functions should be present during an emergency.
- Train employees on prevention strategies as well as the signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Offer materials in all necessary languages to educate employees and customers on proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette. (CDC Website)
- Screen employees (emphasis on those who recently traveled to an area with confirmed cases) on a regular basis and consult with the local and county health departments to determine appropriate actions if a worker, guest, or tenant present symptoms of COVID-19. Know how to respond if asked to quarantine an infected person.
- Review the location’s Business Continuity Plan and carry out a table-top exercise to ensure you are prepared for a worst-case scenario. Ensure that all staff are ready, know their role in keeping the business and its guests/tenants safe and are aware of all the communications protocol.
- Discontinue non-essential services including but not limited to:
- Sit down meals at the bar or restaurant (instead offer room service or food delivery services such as Grub Hub, Uber Eats, etc.).
- Use of reusable dishware and utensils and provide single use plastic dishware, utensils, and cups.
- Valet services and non-essential/emergency shuttle services.
- Daily housekeeping services such as bed making, towel replacement, clean-up, etc. Offer only on an as needed basis.
- Use of public areas such as gyms, pools, hot tubs, lounges, or game rooms.
- Consider ongoing public relations communications with loyalty members, as well as leisure and business travelers, to inform them of the steps you are taking to protect guest/tenants.
- Conduct a risk assessment analysis and anticipate supply chain interruption.
- Consult with counsel as COVID-19 impacts the hotel/complex, contractual obligations and business operations including cancellation policies.
Front Desk & Public Areas
Person to person interactions and gatherings in public areas should be prohibited. Encourage guests and tenants to utilize electronic check-ins, call the front desk with any questions or concerns and to remain in their rooms by prohibiting gatherings in lobbies, lounges and other public areas. Establish hand sanitizing stations in public areas such as front desk, gym, laundry areas and elevators. Ensure bathrooms are fully stocked with soap, tissues, and paper towels. Provide gloves to front desk employees and establish a six foot “social distance” between front desk and visitors/guests checking in/inquiring information.
Clean and sanitize commonly touched objects and equipment (door knobs, elevator buttons, phones, computers, bathrooms, etc.) on a regular basis, every hour if possible.
Review up to date information from the CDC with staff and post prevention strategies (in multiple languages where applicable) in key locations for staff, guests and tenants (CDC Website):
- Wash your hands regularly using soap/water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, handkerchief or inside of your elbow when sneezing or coughing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Avoid contact with sick persons
- Stay at home if you are showing symptoms
- Clean all shared tools and equipment regularly
Switch to pre-approved disinfectants for use against emerging viral pathogens (American Chemistry Council COVID-19 Fighting Products). Utilize enhanced housekeeping cleaning practices when cleaning public areas and guest rooms:
- Wear an apron and gloves while cleaning
- Place bed linens and towels in bags
- Do not leave loose items in the hotel corridor
- Allow cleaning products as much contact time as possible before wiping clean (follow manufacturer’s recommendations)
- Pay extra attention to hand contact surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, telephones, TV remotes, bedside tables, sinks, etc.
- Use fresh cleaning cloths to avoid re-contamination
When lacking cleaning chemicals and sanitizing wipes, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Linens may become contaminated with the virus so it is important to add disinfectant when washing laundry. Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.
Follow normal preventive actions including hand hygiene and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth. Always wash hands:
- After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the restrooms
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before and after cleaning contaminated surfaces and rooms
Drivers and delivery personnel may frequently come in contact with many people, putting them at high risk of exposure. Shuttle/van transportation services should be limited for essential and emergency use only. Ensure that vehicles are stocked with cleaning supplies and that door handles, seats and control devices are disinfected frequently. Consider implementing a “Leave at Door” delivery policy to reduce person to person interactions. Vendor delivery services should be limited to one delivery area and only essential supplies should be ordered for the duration of the pandemic.