Luxury Charleston hotel gets MUSC Health's help to keep guests, employees safe from COVID-19

July 02, 2020
Masked server delivers a drink.
A masked, gloved employee delivers a drink. Image provided by Hotel Bennett

As the MUSC Health Back2Business team expands its efforts to help businesses and organizations operate as safely as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, MUSC Catalyst News is profiling some of the changes taking place. Up first, how the Hotel Bennett is adapting to protect guests and employees.


Guests at the luxurious Hotel Bennett in Charleston may notice a new certification when they check in. MUSC Health’s Back2Business team, which helps businesses operate as safely as possible during the pandemic, has given the hotel a sign to post announcing that it’s completed training to protect guests and employees from the coronavirus.


That’s no small feat, according to Back2Business quality control expert Tara Torres. “They have taken this very seriously and have put processes into place very quickly. They’re very open to suggestions and want to be a positive role model for the city.”


The stakes are high. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a serious toll on the hotel industry that may last until at least 2023. So making sure people feel safe is a top priority.


Hotel Bennett general manager Marty Wall said that’s why he’s making sure the site’s 179 guest rooms, along with its restaurants, bars, spa and other shared spaces, meet the highest health and safety standards. The hotel has a COVID coordinator who’s been working closely with MUSC Health’s Back2Business experts. 


“Our efforts are part of a long-term strategy to keep our employees and guests safe, and being certified by such a renowned institution like MUSC significantly helps convey our safety first message. We sincerely appreciate and enjoy the partnership,” Wall said.


Torres said her team came in and checked out the guidelines and processes the hotel came up with on its own, then created a customized health and safety plan. “We made sure they had the absolute best practice guidelines and risk-mitigation strategies. We also provided employee risk stratification. So every employee will know how to appropriately use personal protective equipment and their specific level of exposure for their roles. They have been very receptive to all our suggestions and are very excited to work with us.”


The hotel is providing hand sanitizer, masks and gloves for guests and employees. It’s posting signs describing how to practice social distancing in three languages. And it’s checking employees’ temperatures and screening them for symptoms of COVID-19. 


Torres said the hotel is also focusing on air flow. “What we have recommended for them to do is to increase ventilation. Ventilation is probably the best thing. Leaving doors open if possible. Updating their air filter system.”


Areas normally touched by a lot of people are carefully cleaned. “They have very frequent sanitizing times. We’ve helped them identify high-touch items and areas. So they go in frequently and wipe them down with disinfectant products. That includes door handles, railings, elevator buttons, countertops, light switches. They also have clear cough shields wherever there’s an employee facing the client.”


Torres said some items have been removed. “There’s nothing communal in the dining areas. Everything is single use if possible. Think about things people want to touch and share. We can’t share anymore.”


Guest rooms in the Hotel Bennett now sit empty for at least 24 hours after someone checks out. Then, each room is thoroughly cleaned before the next arrival.


Torres said the Back2Business team will stay in touch with hotel management, reevaluating and adjusting its tailor-made plan as needed. Back2Business experts include not only quality control specialists but also doctors and nurses with public health and infectious disease backgrounds.


Right now, the Back2Business team is working with at least one other Charleston hotel, along with the airport, the Kiawah Island Club, dentists’ offices, restaurants, private schools and the locations where the HBO show “The Righteous Gemstones” is shot in Charleston.


“We feel like MUSC is a good fit for this because we are all about providing health care needs for our community. We feel like this is part of helping our community as well as visitors who come in to remain as safe as possible. We have the expertise and knowledge and want to be able to share that with our community,” Torres said.

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