MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – The CDC is recommending some people who work in the travel industry, including hotel employees, should be a part of phase 1c of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Wednesday was a clear, warmer day on the Grand Strand, but it’s not quite when millions of tourists usually enjoy the Grand Strand’s beaches. When a lot of them come in the summer, hotels are hoping many of their employees will already be vaccinated and new CDC guidance could allow that to happen.
The CDC is now recommending people in “travel accommodation” like hotel workers be included in phase 1c.
“We had requested 1b, given the fact that hotels have, since the very beginning of the pandemic, been listed as essential businesses,” said Chip Rogers, who’s president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). “We figured our workers should be essential as well, but they’ve put us in 1c, which is an improvement.”
State health departments ultimately choose what groups are given priority in each vaccine. According to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), 2,588,320 people are estimated to be in phase 1c. Karen Riordan, who’s the CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, has been pushing South Carolina lawmakers to include hospitality workers in phase 1b or 1c.
Riordan says at the start of the pandemic, the Grand Strand had about 83,000 hospitality workers, which also includes employees at restaurants and attractions.
“They have to go back home to their families at the end of a shift and the last thing they want to feel is they’ve been exposed when they’re interacting with so many different guests in a given day,” Riordan said.
Riordan also says a vaccinated staff will also help potential visitors feel safe.
“A lot of folks are not going to actually book and plan that trip until they themselves get vaccinated or they hear that the place that they’re considering to go to is in good shape,” she said.
Rogers says early trends show a place like the Grand Strand could rebound well in 2021.
“Those states that have remained open are now getting the bookings for summer,” he said. “Those states where it’s still somewhat questionable whether they’ll be open are not getting those bookings. A place like South Carolina [and] a place like Florida are doing well.”
DHEC says phase 1a is the only one with its groups officially accepted and that the final list of who is in 1b or 1c hasn’t been adopted yet.