Butler County hotels offer creative rates while preparing for call as medical spaces

Ohio could be turning to dormitories, hotels and other facilities to house patients as the coronavirus ramps up and more hospital beds are needed.

While the first preference is to use existing facilities for expanded hospital bed capacity, Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio does not have enough capacity as it exists today.

“We will be having to build additional beds, just like you’re seeing in places like New York,” Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said earlier this week.

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Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, told the Journal-News the Butler County General Health District and Butler County Emergency Management Agency first reached out about eight weeks ago inquiring about hotel availability. He said is unaware of any hotels participating at this time.

“Butler County EMA and Butler County Health District are currently putting plans in place in the event they have a need,” Hecquet said.

The hotel community has been “especially hard hit” as a result of COVID-19 and many are getting creative to offer needed services as the pandemic develops, he said.

Hotels for Hope, an initiative launched Tuesday by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, has identified more than 10,000 properties nationwide located in close proximity to established healthcare facilities and ready to assist the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and government agencies at all levels if needed during this health crisis.

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As of Thursday evening, “405 hotels in Ohio have signed up to help provide access to hotel properties to support healthcare providers and our nation’s first responders who may be in need of temporary housing during this crucial time,” said Katie Clippinger, an AHLA spokeswoman.

Some hotels are in ongoing conversations with local first responders about what role they can play should the medical community need additional resources, and others are offering deals to use their space as remote work offices, Hecquet.

That includes Holiday Inn North-West Chester and Centre Park Event center, which started offering day rates for hotel rooms earlier this week.

"We started noticing on Facebook and other social media outlets that some parents were having a difficult time getting work done with the entire family in the house," said Neha Bhatnagar, director of e-commerce for Beavercreek-based Middletown Hotel Management Co., which operates the Butler County hotel.

“We came up with the idea of offering a day rate to try to help out families where you have both parents at home and one is able to leave and find some quiet space to get some work done.”

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The hotel is charging half of the usual overnight rate for area residents to use a hotel room, which offers a desk mini refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker and access to the hotel’s Wi-Fi.

The deal is meant to counter a harsh downturn across the entire industry, one that Bhatnagar said has knocked average occupancy rates at the West Chester Holiday Inn to 3.5 percent. In comparison, occupancy rates usually fluctuate between 100 percent occupancy for Monday to Wednesday, 60 percent Thursday, 100 percent Friday and Saturday and 50 percent for Sunday.

“The market here has drastically been affected by the coronavirus and the stay-at-home order,” she said. “One of our goals is to try and help the community as much as possible so that when we are able to get back to some sort of normalcy, that we start off on the best foot that we can.”

The hotel also is offering meeting space to accommodate the six-foot social distance between people who still need to conduct meetings. The hotel’s meeting space exceeds the National Safety Guidelines and food service is available for meetings onsite, Bhatnagar said.

Middletown Hotel Management owns and operates eight hotels in Ohio, including properties in the Butler County, Dayton and Columbus areas.

“We take the safety and security of our staff and our guests very seriously and always have,” said Jamie Walters, MHM’s director of operations. “We’ve taken extra precautions as far as following the social distancing and reducing our teams and having sanitation stations throughout the property.”

MHM also has had employees undergo additional training on proper use of cleaning chemicals that protect against coronavirus.

Bhatnagar said individual medical professionals have been staying at Holiday Inn, but no organization had yet approached the hotel for the use of its rooms to house health care workers or individuals needing medical care.

Miami University and Butler County Health District did not return requests for comment.

Coronavirus resources

  • Ohio Department of Health hotline: 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (staffed from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day)
  • ODH updates: coronavirus.ohio.gov
  • Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services helpline: 1-877-275-6364
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Butler County hotline: 1-844-4CRISIS
  • Ohio crisis text line: Text keyword "4HOPE" to 741 741
  • Butler County hotline for seniors who need help: 513-721-1025
  • Butler County hotline for those who want to help seniors: 513-623-3891
  • Complete Journal-News coverage: bit.ly/coronavirusjn

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