Some hotels have been quick to relax mask requirements in reaction to the new CDC mask guidelines.
The unexpected announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to relax mask requirements for fully vaccinated Americans, who also no longer need to socially distance indoors or outdoors, caught many in the events and hospitality industry by surprise. As several states — including Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York (as of May 19) — quickly announced revisions to relax their mask requirements and physical distancing rules, hoteliers scrambled to figure out if they should do likewise, at least for their U.S. properties
One of the first out the gate to respond was the American Hotel & Lodging Association. AHLA President and CEO, Chip Rogers, released a statement on May 17, saying, “In light of the recent CDC announcement that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most settings, our Safe Stay guidelines will relax mask requirements for guests who are fully vaccinated.
“At this time, we are not asking hotels to require proof of vaccination status, but we do ask that all guests and workers, vaccinated or not, respect and honor these revised guidelines. Unvaccinated guests should wear face-coverings at all times and practice physical distancing.”
He added that, as the industry waits for further direction on how CDC guidance applies to their business, hotel employees should continue to wear face-coverings indoors and follow local business and workplace guidance. However, AHLA says, hotels can relax mask requirements for vaccinated employees who work outside or otherwise not in close contact with others. Rogers added, “Of course, all hotels are required to follow state and local requirements which may go beyond what is recommended by the CDC.”
Las Vegas Properties Quick to Loosen Restrictions
Some Las Vegas properties announced they would relax mask requirements shortly after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a directive aligning state policy with loosened Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask guidance.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore announced that vaccinated guests and employees would not be required to wear face masks moving forward. “The resort trusts guests to take the appropriate precautions based on their personal vaccination status,” the company said in a statement on May 13, adding that employees at its Las Vegas properties already had a 91% vaccination rate, which prompted the Nevada Gaming Control Board to give the resort permission to amend its occupancy to 100%, as well as take down plexiglass dividers at its gaming tables and slot machines. The relaxed mask requirements do not apply to unvaccinated guests and employees, who still must wear masks at the property.
Also in Las Vegas, the Cosmopolitan and MGM Resorts — which includes MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay, among others — also were quick to announce relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated guests, who could now go mask-free on their properties, both indoors and outside. The Cosmopolitan offers face masks to unvaccinated guests who need them, while MGM will still require employees who need them to continue wearing gloves.
But it’s not just a Las Vegas thing. Hyatt has updated it face mask policy, saying in a statement, “In light of this recent CDC and AHLA guidance, and after considerable review, we have updated our face coverings mandate for fully vaccinated guests and colleagues at Hyatt hotels in the U.S.” Now only unvaccinated guests at Hyatt hotels in the U.S. are required to wear face masks or coverings in hotel indoor public areas, as well as outdoors where social distancing is not feasible (with some limited exceptions). U.S. Hyatt staff are still required to wear face masks or coverings indoors, while fully vaccinated staff working outdoors, who are not in close contact with others, are not required to wear face coverings.
Marriott also has relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated guests at its U.S. properties, “unless mandated by a local jurisdiction or state.” IHG has issued a similar statement, saying, “…guests who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear face coverings while on property,” though it still encourages unvaccinated guests to wear face coverings indoor and outside when social distancing is not possible.
However, while they may be considering relaxing their mask policies for U.S. properties, some other chains have not, or at least, not yet, eased COVID restrictions. As of press time, Hilton, Accor and Wyndham are still requiring guests to wear face coverings while at their U.S. properties.