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Is it safe to stay in a hotel during the pandemic?

  • It’s impossible to truly know if a hotel room is clean of coronavirus
  • Look for hotels in the Stay Safe program
  • Travelers can be proactive by bringing their own pillows and wipes

Although a number of hotel chains say they have improved their sanitation policies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts told USA Today that it’s impossible to know if a hotel room is coronavirus-free. 

“It’s difficult to distinguish between legitimate cleaning efforts and public relations,” Sheryl Kline, a professor at the University of Delaware who has researched hotel hygiene, told USA Today. “Anyone can do a visual inspection, and it can look clean. Just because it looks clean does not necessarily mean that it is clean.”  

However, there are signs for potential guests to look out for that can provide peace of mind if they’re on a road trip or traveling by air across the country. For example, travelers can look for hotels that have implemented an industrywide program called Safe Stay. Hotels in the Safe Stay program—which was implemented by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)—follow CDC guidelines, including using EPA-approved cleaning products and encouraging staff to practice social distancing and wear masks.

Safe Stay guidelines include: 

  • Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and communal areas multiple times a day. 
  • Paying particular attention in guest rooms to high-touch, hard nonporous items including television remote controls, toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks, and flooring.
  • Following CDC guidelines when doing laundry, including using the warmest setting possible and bagging linens before transporting them to the laundry facility. 
  • Cleaning elevator buttons multiple times a day. 

Experts told USA Today that upon arrival, guests could check their rooms for cleanliness by inspecting the bathroom and looking at details — like fingerprints on doorknobs or noticeable grime around the toilet. Hand sanitizer at the front of the hotel is also a sign that it’s following CDC guidelines, Business Insider reported

“You can always tell if a hotel has been properly cleaned and disinfected by checking the bathrooms and seeing if the room is free of dust,” John Marroni, owner and president of National Restoration, told Business Insider. “You can also check the heating vents to make sure they are clean and free of dust and dirt. Those are the key areas to check first, which will be a major indicator of whether the hotel is clean and safe.”

Travelers can be proactive during their hotel stay. Guests can bring their own disinfectant wipes to wipe down doorknobs, the bathroom, and other frequently touched parts of the room. For extra peace of mind, guests can also buy pillows to use during their stay and drop cloths to cover the furniture. Guests should also avoid public areas, like the pool, and consider ordering room service instead of eating at the restaurant. 

As per CDC guidelines, people are much more likely to contract COVID-19 by direct contact with someone infected rather than by touching un-sanitized surfaces. Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the infectious disease division at the University at Buffalo, told Business Insider that guests can best protect themselves by wearing a mask. 

“When you are waiting in a line to check-in, you might interact with people taking your bags,” he said. “I would wear a mask because during the check-in process, going in the elevator up to your room, or even the stairwell, it’s possible that you might run into someone. The mask would afford a layer of protection.”

Is it safe:

Sources: USA Today, AHLA, CDC, Business Insider


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