January 18, 2013
(USA TODAY) -- Hotels are rushing to prepare to accommodate guests who arrive or come down with the potentially deadly flu that's sweeping the nation.
"We hear the flu reports every day, and we want to be prepared (for sick guests)," says Andy Labetti, general manager of the Omni Berkshire Place in Midtown Manhattan.
Preparations include having chicken soup to serve to sick guests stuck in their rooms, stocking up on jugs of hand sanitizer gel, medication and boxes of tissues. They're also trying not to spread the flu by reminding employees to wash their hands or giving them flu shots.
Other hotels are taking similar steps as the flu strain is widespread across 47 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Beverly Hills Hotel in California, part of the luxury Dorchester Collection, has stocked its shop with extra hand sanitizer, Theraflu and other medications, says publicist Jenna Duran. It's sending complimentary chicken soup, tissues, cold medicine and lip balm to sick guests.
At the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas, Texas, the hotel's kitchen makes chicken soup for sick guests, says food and beverage director Charles Riley. "We send it up with a get-well card and ginger ale," he says.
The Mayflower Renaissance hotel in Washington has added hand gel to its front desk counters.
Labetti of Omni Berkshire Place says staffers are encouraged to approach guests who appear ill to see how they can help.
"As a hotelier, the first thing out of your mouth is, 'What can we do for you? Do you need extra blankets? Do you need a humidifier?'" he says. "Whatever you need, we're going to take care of it. We want you to know you're not here alone."
No traveler wants to catch the flu on the road, so many are taking their own precautions. Susan Jacobsen of Washington says she took a mini-bottle of disinfectant spray with her to Las Vegas earlier this month when she attended the International CES, the giant consumer electronics show.
Despite the precautions hotels are taking, some travelers are avoiding hotel gyms or even elevators for fear of catching the flu bug.
Penny Ridderbusch of Port Townsend, Wash., says she saw so many fellow travelers coughing that she stopped by a drugstore when traveling in December to get a flu shot.
She remains so leery of catching the flu, however, that she's avoiding hotel gyms to work out in her room. And, "I try to avoid riding in the hotel elevator with anyone," she says. "I use the back of my hand for pressing elevator buttons."
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