Imagine being the owner of a local hotel forced to shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your hotel went from generating daily revenues on tourists passing through to an isolated and vacant space seemingly overnight. But now there may be an opportunity to breathe new life into your property by housing virus-positive patients who cannot return home.
Does this scenario seem unlikely? If so, think again. Cities are looking for help from hotels to house patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalization. They are patients expected to self-isolate but, for one reason or another, cannot return home to do so.
Officials in Chicago expect that they can open up as many as 2,000 beds within a short time frame. There could be up to 15,000 hotel rooms throughout the state that could be utilized for isolation purposes as well. Of course, housing people exposed to COVID-19 requires an entirely new mindset.
Limited Interaction with Staff
Right off the top, patients in isolation would have limited interaction with hotel staff. They wouldn’t be allowed to roam around hotel facilities for obvious reasons. Simply put, isolation means isolation. It also means hotel staff would need to be trained in new ways of handling maintenance, changing bed linens, and so forth.
It is quite likely that some hotel staff members will be anxious as long as COVID-19 patients are on site. As such, they might need access to mental health services until the crisis subsides. They might need to learn new coping strategies to help them make the best of a situation they are nervous about.
Then there is the issue of limiting their interaction with one another. From front desk personnel to housekeeping, hotel staff will have to keep their distance from one another as much as possible. They will have to be especially cognizant of their own health, ready to identify any symptoms that might suggest they are getting ill. As you can see, there is a lot more to social distancing than meets the eye.
Running the Hotel
Beyond the issues of how to interact with patients, ownership and management have to deal with the practical aspects of running a hotel filled with people under quarantine. Just dealing with soiled bed linens is problem enough. Does a local hotel have sufficient laundry facilities to properly clean soiled bed linens?
Alsco, a Utah company that supplies healthcare linens nationwide, explains that growing numbers of commercial laundry facilities are certified hygienically clean. They are fully capable of handling contaminated bed linens. Hotels might not be.
The safest bet would be for hotels to outsource their laundry to a commercial facility for as long as the COVID-19 crisis persists. Of course, those with the capacity to produce hygienically clean linens could continue to launder bed sheets and pillowcases in-house.
Addressing Food Delivery
Housing isolated patients at a hotel even raises issues with something as seemingly simple as feeding them. For starters, local bars and restaurants have all but shut down except for those capable of providing takeout. Hotels with their own restaurant facilities might be able to cope by cooking meals and delivering them to rooms. But what about those hotels without dining facilities?
Housing virus-positive patients at local hotels is a novel idea born out of necessity. In cities where it is tried, officials are going to learn quite quickly that the logistics of it all are not that simple. The good news is that COVID-19 will eventually pass. And when it does, life will return to normal.