As travelers slowly begin to get back on the road and in the air amid the coronavirus pandemic, they may be wondering if it's safe to stay in a hotel.
Hotels have rolled out a slew of cleaning and safety programs, and last week the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), the hotel industry's major trade group, released a checklist for guests who plan to stay in hotels.
"Utilizing these best practices, including requiring face coverings and practicing social distancing in public spaces, will create an even safer environment for all our guests and employees,” Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, said in a statement. “We applaud governors who have standardized the use of face coverings in all indoor public spaces, and we urge all lawmakers to help make this a national standard by implementing this requirement in their states.”
The traveler checklist includes such tips as :Wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces and practice social distancing in all common areas. Choose contactless options, where available, including online reservations, check-ins and payments. Consider daily room cleaning, only if necessary. Ask the hotel about options. Request contactless room service delivery. Refrain from traveling if you have, or recently had, any symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Which is better: Hotel or home rental?
Dr. Keith Armitage, in a Q&A with the USA TODAY Network, commended hotels' efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus. Armitage is medical director of the University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health in Cleveland.
"A lot of hotels are really taking steps to mitigate risk, having online check-in, clearing the rooms, keeping people out of the lobby, but again, it’s indoor with strangers," he said. "If you’re walking through a hotel lobby, you want to have a mask on."
Armitage notes it may be safer to stay in home rental than a hotel: "The ideal situation would be an Airbnb or a rental that had been empty for a couple of days."How to mitigate risk at a hotel
Experts agree that masks should be work in hotel public spaces; some hotels require them and hand them out if guests aren't wearing them.
One other thing to consider in public spaces: Armitage suggests not eating in a breakfast buffet area. "Take a mask, get your food and eat it in your room."
Once you get to your room, high-touch surfaces are the things to pay attention to.
Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cleveland Clinic, said it's a good idea to bring your own disinfectant wipes to use on surfaces in the room, and Armitage agreed.
"In the room, there might be risk for higher-touch surfaces. You can wipe things down yourself, like the telephone and the doorknob and the most important thing, the remote control," Armitage said.
Some hotels sanitize and then seal items in rooms, such as remotes, coffee cups and glassware, and have eliminated mini-bars. And guests are coming up with creative solutions themselves.
Evan Schreiber, a Portland TV reporter at KATU News, tweeted a photo of a hack using the hotel ice bucket plastic bag over the TV remote.
Other hotels do daily housekeeping only upon request, though Khabbaza said the risk of contracting the coronavirus from housekeeping should be relatively low.
If the air circulation is good in your hotel room, Armitage noted, then it's unlikely the virus will spread through the hotel ventilation system from room to room.
Contributing: Curtis Tate, Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY; Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal