Hundreds of Illinois hotels offer first responders rooms to keep families safe from virus threat

Hundreds of Illinois hotels with millions of empty rooms are offering their services to first responders who want to avoid bringing the virus home to family and loved ones. Nationally, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reported more than 15,000 hotels have offered rooms to first responders to lower the risk of bringing the virus into their homes.

The practice has been planned in Chicago area and elsewhere in Illinois for some time, Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association Director Michael Jacobson said.

“We’ve been doing this outreach on behalf of the state for the past month now,” he said.

The hotels are still being paid for the rooms, but they’re not profiting, rather charging municipalities, hospitals or the responder’s professional association just enough to keep a few staffers working.

“In some cases, the local governments are picking up the cost,” Jacobson said. “Ultimately, no hotel is profiting off of a program like this.”

Some hotels have offered to house patients who have contracted COVID-19, Jacobson said, as a measure to free up hospital beds for patients with more urgent needs but they don’t have data on which have offered that service. Those hotels have been in direct communication with hospitals and government agencies, Jacobson said.

Marriott International, in partnership with JP Morgan Chase and American Express, announced $10 million worth of hotel stays would be offered to healthcare professionals free of charge. The “Rooms for Responders” initiative will provide free rooms in some of the areas most impacted including New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and Newark, N.J.

The offering comes as hotels across the state are seeing occupancy nearly vanish in a matter of days over widespread stay-at-home orders that have kept more than three-quarters of the nation’s population home. In March, Jacobson said the industry lost billions of dollars in a matter of weeks.


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