The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, March 26, 2020 1:00 am

Local hotels could help in COVID-19 fight

Might be called on to house patients, essential workers

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Federal and state governments have put out calls to Indiana hotels for help in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and at least a half-dozen in the Fort Wayne area already have answered.

The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association is coordinating the responses on its website.

Among the lodging places listed as of Wednesday morning were Residence Inn, Comfort Inn & Suites South, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Wyndham Garden Inn, Springhill Suites and the Hampton Inn & Suites (southwest) in Fort Wayne and Wingate by Wyndham in Angola.

“It's been quick, and our lists are growing every day,” said Patrick Tamm, association president and chief executive officer of the response.

The association was approached by federal and state entities and hotel supply chain businesses to develop lists of properties that could be leased for potential housing, he said. It has not been determined what role, if any, that local hotels would serve – but possibilities include quarantined patients, hospital overcrowding relief or housing for essential workers from outside the area.

Housing National Guard members if they were called to the area would be one example, said Linda Skaggs, manager with the Hampton Inn across Jefferson Boulevard from Lutheran Hospital.

Although the hotel often houses families of hospitalized patients and is convenient to Lutheran, she doesn't expect the hotel to be pressed into service soon.

“We're not seeing that they're bursting at the seams,” Skaggs said.

What use, if any, a hotel might be would come from state or other authorities, she stressed. If the hotel would be used by the hospital, “that's all we would do,” Skaggs said. The hotel wouldn't mix patients and guests, even on different floors, she said.

The hotel association is not vetting hotels on the list, but they would be vetted by other agencies, which would also decide on which hotels would be used based on local circumstances, Tamm said.

The industry has capacity because traveling is reduced and some owners have rooms as they are consolidating properties, he said.

Chicago is among the cities to repurpose rooms at hotels. Five hotels have been tapped to ease the burden on hospitals.  By the end of the week, city officials should be able to house about 2,000 people.

Hotel operators can choose to be on a state list for health care facility use or the federal list, which represents housing capacity that governors, mayors and public health officials can appoint for use. The lists are available at inrla.org.

“I think we just want to be a port in the storm and a light in the darkness,” Skaggs said. “We're doing this as a service to the community.”

rsalter@jg.net


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