Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City May Use Hotels for Quarantine

Modeled on Chicago's program to slow COVID-19's spread, provide economic support.

By - Mar 23rd, 2020 05:24 pm
Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Empty hotel rooms could soon house those infected with COVID-19.

The City of Chicago announced an initiative Monday that would lease at least 2,000 hotel rooms across five hotels for those who have been diagnosed with or exposed to the disease, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Those in the hotels would be housed on restricted floors, visited only by Chicago health staff and provided with three meals a day.

The City of Milwaukee could eventually implement a similar strategy. “We have received a number of offers from area hotel operators so we have been organizing this info for use,” wrote Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik in response to a question from Urban Milwaukee during a media briefing on the pandemic. “We are beyond thankful for the outpouring of support and resources from the business community.” Specific hotels were not identified.

The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the economic impact of COVID-19. In Milwaukee, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino closed its 500-room hotel alongside the casino and theater. Marcus Corp., which owns and operates the Pfister Hotel, Saint Kate The Arts Hotel and Hilton Milwaukee CityCenter, in addition to others, is still operating its hotels but occupancy is low.

Chicago plans to pay $175 a day per room as part of its proposal, including three meals prepared by hotel staff and distributed by health care workers.

“By no means is this going to make a hotel money,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, in a story by the Chicago Tribune. “But if it can at least help them weather the storm when it comes to paying property taxes and maintaining at least a few staff without having to layoff 100 percent, the hotels see that as an opportunity to try to take care of their employees.”

Chicago officials said the proposal could also be expanded to house hospital workers that want to avoid spreading the virus to their families.

Chicago officials billed the plan as a first-of-its-kind effort because hotel workers will still operate much of the hotel, including the front desk, kitchen and cleaning functions.

If Milwaukee or Wisconsin adopts the program it would be at least the second action taken modeled after Illinois. Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday that the city’s “safe at home” order is modeled after a similar order in Illinois.

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City May Use Hotels for Quarantine”

  1. mcadagio says:

    This is a cool initiative, I hope it can come together quickly, but it would make more sense as a statewide program, not just Milwaukee.

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