SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco’s normally bustling hotels are quiet. The city's tourism and travel industries have been dealt a devastating blow with the coronavirus pandemic. Many hotel workers are out of work.
“Most hotel rooms in San Francisco are empty right now. There are only 3-5% of the rooms are occupied, which means tens of thousands of empty rooms right now," said San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney.
Those rooms and hotel workers could play an important role in the city's coronavirus response.
Stay-at-home orders are in place to stop the coronavirus transmission but many people on medical quarantine, first responders, single room occupancy residents and the homeless need a place to stay.
In a statement Friday, San Francisco city officials announced they have secured leases for some 300 hotel rooms to house people who are under self-quarantine for COVID-19 but do not have a place to isolate themselves.
The statement says, "The City continues to negotiate hotel leases to support additional populations, including: Seniors and vulnerable adults in Laguna Honda Hospital and others in congregate facilities who can be in hotel rooms with a relatively low level of care; COVID-19-exposed and COVID-19-positive frontline health care workers and other first responders; and
Vulnerable populations who are living unsheltered on the street (age 60+ and those with underlying health conditions)."
Supervisor Haney says the city has received offers from hotels for more than 11,000 rooms.
The Emergency Operations Center and Human Services Agency is trying to negotiate the costs. San Francisco plans to pay for the rooms with some funding from state and federal grants to help house people who are homeless.
“There is a huge range in terms of cost per night. Some are 30 bucks a night, some are as high as $250-300. The average about $100 or close to $100," said Haney.
Anand Singh, President of Unite Here Local 2 says many members are looking for work.
“Nine-thousand of our members work in hotels and the cuts have been quite deep. We see closures occurring almost on a daily basis, so well over 80% of our members in hotels are currently laid off," said Singh.
Singh says if work would be on a volunteer basis at regular pay. He says the union is negotiating to make sure hotel workers receive training, protective masks and other gear to protect their health.
"We want to make sure our members working in that space are not unduly exposed, there’s no risk of exposure to people who are under quarantine,” said Singh.
Haney says hotel staff would not be asked to care for medical patients or people with special physical or mental needs.
Haney says the need for action is urgent.
"If we don’t prevent people from getting sick, either by leaving them in shelters where the virus can spread quickly, or having them out on the streets, that’s going to cost a lot more money than being preventative or proactive," said Haney.