The lodging industry is urging President-elect Joe Biden to turn the nation’s hotels into additional centers for administering COVID-19 vaccines to the public, a move that could help to flatten the ongoing surge in coronavirus infections.
In a letter to Biden’s transition team, the head of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) points out that hotels are ideally suited to serve as vaccination sites, right down to having the kitchen refrigeration on hand to provide the deep freeze needed for storing the Pfizer serum, one of two currently approved for use.
AH&LA CEO Chip Rogers also notes that hotels typically have ample parking, ready access to major highways, and are accustomed to operating around the clock, as many vaccine distribution points are currently functioning. He also observes that the nation's inventory of 50,000 lodging properties is spread across cities, suburbs and rural settings in all 50 states, providing instant blanket coverage.
“Hotels have the geographic reach to support a wide distribution of the vaccine,” Rogers writes.
Those facilities are already following strict protocols to keep staff and guests safe, which would ease their transition into inoculation sites, Rogers adds.
He makes no mention of any financial arrangement. Rather, Rogers says the industry is offering its services “to assist our community and alleviate the current burdens on our health systems.”
But he notes that hotels are now filling fewer than half their rooms, providing ample space for “families or individuals who might be traveling to receive the vaccine.”
“America’s hotels stand ready to work alongside America’s governors as states continue to move forward in administrating the COVID-19 vaccine,” Rogers says. “By quickly mobilizing an existing network of sites, hotels can help strengthen the delivery and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in communities across the country to better streamline and build on current state efforts.”
Rogers says a collaboration would be an extension of the AH&LA’s Hospitality for Hope initiative, whereby 20,000 hotels provided lodging for healthcare and emergency workers who traveled to areas where their services were needed.
Some hospitality operations are already serving as auxiliary vaccination sites. The Walt Disney Co.’s Disneyland theme park has been turned into a vaccination “super site” where thousands of individuals are vaccinated daily. Florida officials are reportedly considering the use of DisneyWorld, a larger resort, for the same purpose.