Is it safe to stay at hotels? What you need to know about booking a room during COVID-19

Click to play video: 'New hotel sanitation protocols under COVID-19'
New hotel sanitation protocols under COVID-19
WATCH: New hotel sanitation protocols under COVID-19 – Jun 11, 2020

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift across the country, hotels are reopening — but how safe is it to stay a room right after another person?

Ultimately, it depends on the precautions both you and the hotel take.

The good news: Canadian hotels are implementing strict cleaning protocols, and that, combined with physical distancing and good hand hygiene, should make it relatively safe for you to spend a night away from home in the near future.

“If people take proper precautions and the hotel really does follow these strict cleaning protocols … I think there’s a way that people can reasonably enjoy some time out of their homes in the safest way possible,” said Dr. David Finn, the medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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The main areas of concern at a hotel, says Finn, are interacting with staff and other guests in common areas and the way rooms are cleaned.

To reassure potential guests, many hotels — from luxury resorts to budget-friendly brands — are sharing the changes they’re making on their websites.

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New practices may include adding hand sanitizer stations in lobbies, disinfecting surfaces like elevator buttons more frequently and removing extra items in rooms, such as pens and paper. Breakfast buffets may also be replaced with prepackaged meals.

Once at a hotel, Finn says guests should continue to follow social-distancing guidelines and use a mask where that’s not possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests taking the stairs when possible and minimizing the use of common areas.

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Enhanced cleaning protocols

The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) released new cleaning standards in response to COVID-19, in collaboration with the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Among the recommendations are the widespread availability of hand sanitizer dispensers with no less than 60 per cent alcohol content and personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by all employees at all times.

There should also be strict screening measures for both staff and guests, said HAC, to prevent someone with COVID-19 entering the hotel and infecting others.

Public spaces and communal areas should be cleaned and disinfected multiple times a day, “with an emphasis on frequent contact with hard, non-porous surfaces” — like the check-in counter and elevators.

When it comes to rooms, new cleaning protocols require that “particular attention” is also paid to high-touch, hard, non-porous surfaces like remote controls, toilet seats and handles, and telephones.

All single-use items provided by the hotel but left by the guests should also be discarded, and linens and towels should be washed “using the warmest permissible water setting.”

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It’s also recommended that public spaces, like washrooms, be made as contactless as possible.

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“Things like automatic faucets, auto soap dispensers, auto flushes and auto hand dryers” are recommended, said Katy Baker, director of marketing at Citron Hygiene.

“You wouldn’t want somebody going in and touching the faucet, washing their hands and then having to turn off the faucet after. That could recontaminate their hands.”

Masks, good hand hygiene

It’s the advice of public health that Canadians wear masks in public — especially in enclosed spaces where physical distancing isn’t possible — and practise good hand hygiene, which is defined as using soap and warm water to clean your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds.

This remains your best defence against contracting COVID-19 during a hotel stay, Finn said.

“Take the usual precautions: masks, hand sanitizer and minimize direct interaction with people (outside your bubble,” he said.

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It’s very important that you properly and safely dispose of your mask, gloves and any other used PPE, said Baker.

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“The WHO mandates that PPE is disposed of in a closed receptacle and is treated as infectious waste,” Baker said.

This means finding a closed garbage can marked with a sign specifically for PPE, which most hotel lobbies should have moving forward.

Moving forward, Finn hopes hotels will automate as much of the hotel experience as possible, in order to make it contactless and safe.

Automated check-in and keyless room entry will make it that much easier for guests to avoid high-contact areas where the coronavirus may linger.

Hotels should also consider doing away with additional features like valet car services, buffets and doormen, said Finn, to make it easier for guests to move through the space without coming close to other people.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from the Associated Press


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