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To help provide a safe environment for their guests, Great Wolf Lodge requires a filled-out “wellness questionnaire” and face masks for kids 5 and up. 

After businesses in Colorado shut down in late March under a statewide stay-at-home order designed to impede the spread of COVID-19, hotels registered occupancy at just under 17 percent, the lowest rate in decades.

In July, though, after the economy began inching back to life as restrictions for the coronavirus eased, the hotel industry rebounded to a statewide occupancy of nearly 49 percent, according to data from The Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

Occupancy in Colorado Springs, a hotbed for tourism, showed a bigger recovery — from 18 percent in April to 66 percent in July, one of the highest in the state, though its year-to-date occupancy rate stands at only 45 percent, compared to 72 percent last year.

The second weekend in July saw Colorado Springs mark the highest hotel occupancy rates in the country, according to VisitCOS CEO Doug Price.

In an emailed message to Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC members, Price notes economic recovery is possible “only if we all do our part to create a safe visitor experience.

“That’s why we support a mitigation plan that allows our tourism businesses to remain open while ensuring everyone follows local and state public health guidelines,” he said.

“Unprecedented times”

Great Wolf Lodge, 9494 Federal Drive, offers a detailed description of its COVID-19 protection measures, which address social distancing, sanitation and masks, on its website. The resort, which contains a water park, mandates masks for those ages 5 and older — more strict than the statewide requirement that those over age 10 wear masks in indoor and public spaces.

Moreover, guests are asked to complete a “wellness questionnaire” upon check-in.

“These are definitely unprecedented times, and we have taken every step imaginable to ensure our environment is safe and healthy with our Paw Pledge program,” Great Wolf Lodge spokesman Jason Lasecki said via email, referring to the safety protocols.

Nevertheless, three employees tested positive in mid-August. Lasecki says the workers had “very little to no direct interaction with resort guests and regularly wore proper [personal protective equipment] when in guest areas of the resort.”

The workers were sent home on paid medical leave to isolate. Moreover, he adds, “We asked any pack member [employee] identified as having a moderate level of contact with these individuals to quarantine and self-monitor on paid medical leave.”

The resort cooperated with El Paso County Public Health’s contact tracing efforts and the lodge carried out “a thorough and deep sanitization and disinfection of the areas in which they worked,” he says.

About 400 Air Force Academy cadets are staying at the lodge and other hotels as a precaution during the pandemic, but no cadets housed at the lodge have been infected, the Academy’s Lt. Col. Michael Andrews said in an Aug. 18 statement.

“We appreciate Great Wolf Lodge’s continued diligence in following state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” Andrews said. “We appreciate their continued partnership and professionalism supporting our cadets.”

Keep ’em clean

The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave., outlines its protocols in a 13-page advisory titled, “Health & Hygiene Practices.” Those include use of “hospital grade” sanitation products and applying an “antimicrobial coating” to frequently touched areas and fabrics.

Because no hotel can carry out every protective step for their guests, The Broadmoor also installed “appropriate signage” across the property to remind visitors and staff to social distance in elevators, escalators, public spaces and elsewhere.

The Antlers hotel in downtown Colorado Springs advises guests on its website about the face mask mandate and that the fitness center and indoor pool are closed, while the hot tub and outdoor pool remain open.

The Hotel Eleganté, 2886 S. Circle Drive, outlines health guidelines for its pool — sanitation every half hour, and a limit of 10 people at a time allowed in the indoor pool — and reminds guests its restaurants operate at 50 percent occupancy, per state orders.

Similarly, Cheyenne Mountain Resort, 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road, spells out its plans in a fairly lengthy webpage. It also goes a step further, stating its “expectations” of guests. They’re not to check in if someone in their party is infected with COVID-19 or has symptoms. Anyone who does display symptoms is expected to “immediately notify hotel management and seek medical attention.”

Those steps might have helped Colorado Springs hotels achieve the fourth-highest occupancy rate in July, behind Durango (83.8 percent), Glenwood Springs (81.7 percent) and Estes Park (71.1 percent). Denver reported 43 percent occupancy in July, compared to 15.7 percent in April.

But El Paso County’s hotels haven’t been without COVID-19 outbreaks, defined as two or more cases. Besides the Great Wolf Lodge’s three in mid-August, El Paso County Public Health reports that two infections were reported in early July at Drury Inn & Suites, 1170 Interquest Parkway.

Still, those represent a fraction of the 107 infections represented in 23 outbreaks, most of which have occurred in child care centers (four outbreaks, 21 infections), churches (three outbreaks, 16 infections), and retail stores (two outbreaks, 15 infections).

 

Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.