At a press conference on April 16, Mayor Bill di Blasio announced a new phase in Covid-19 management in the city at the center of the global pandemic.
The city will be renting 11,000 hotel rooms to house first responders, homeless and newly to people who become symptomatic and have no facilities to self-isolate. These include many of New York City’s lower income individuals who live in multi-generational family units in some of the city’s hardest hit areas such as Queens and the Bronx.
New York City’s infamously expensive real estate market means that many workers who are close to or at the poverty level often share small apartments with common bathrooms and kitchens making it impossible to self-quarantine once someone in the household becomes symptomatic.
Di Blasio stated that the city’s health and human services organizations currently working on the frontline of the pandemic will be working to organize the housing process and to identify individuals proposed for the rooms.
Hotels had previously been eyed by state and local authorities to function as ad hoc hospitals in case the rate of infection soared to possible CDC projections. Currently, the rate of infection in NYC has plateaued and field hospitals in Central Park, the Javits Center and on the USNS Comfort have expanded the number of beds available in the city making hotel hospitals currently unnecessary.
Prior to this announcement, hotels like The Four Seasons in midtown NY were giving rooms away for free for local first responders and other area hotels were setting aside rooms for purchase by the city at lowered rates. Marriott Hotels received $10 million from credit card partners such as American Express and J.P. Morgan Chase to transform rooms from hospitality to havens for the pandemic’s front line responders.
At Ty Warner’s 57th Street Four Seasons location, the entire hotel has been given over to first responders. The New York Times reports that the property’s 368 rooms have been reduced to 225. Handrails are cordoned off. House keeping does not come to change linens—residents are given changes of linens when they check in and laundry is done when the responders check out. There is no room service and everyone must stay six feet apart.
Nationally, the American Hotel and Lodging Association has launched the Hospitality for Hope program which has already signed over 15,000 hotels across the country in its database to make rooms available for the pandemic crisis.
Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO said in an agency statement, that “the hotel industry is uniquely positioned to support our communities by caring for the first responders who are on the front lines of this public health crisis.”
The association reported that the number of hotels signing up to the program is “growing daily.”
The Hotels Association of New York City will help in identifying New York City hotels willing to offer up rooms for the new, expanded scheme. When contacted for comment by Business Traveler USA the organizations spokesperson said that the hotels on the list were currently not being made public.