NBC4 I-Team

50 LA Area Hotel Workers Test Positive For COVID-19

Some workers worry about spreading the virus among guests and employees.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The rooftop pool at the W Hotel in Hollywood was packed one recent Saturday afternoon, with almost no one wearing masks and dozens of people mingling closely together in groups, according to video obtained by the NBC4 I-Team. That behavior appears to violate state guidelines requiring hotels to "ensure physical distancing" at their pools.

Even more surprising, the scene was recorded two weeks after an LA county health inspector visited the hotel and found it in compliance. 

"When we go [to hotels], we see what we see, we get what we get in that regard.  And this is one of the reasons why we continue to do unannounced investigations," County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis told the I-Team, addressing concerns about the W Hotel.

Despite the pandemic, thousands of people are traveling in California this summer, and many are checking into hotels. But hotel workers have told the I-Team they're worried that not enough is being done to protect them, and guests, from COVID-19.

At least 50 LA area hotel workers have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the union representing local hotel housekeepers--UNITE HERE Local 11.

"This is a matter of life," said Juana Melara, a housekeeper at the Westin in Long Beach, where the I-Team obtained documentation that at least three workers there have tested positive for COVID-19. Melara says she and her colleagues are worried about being exposed to COVID from dirty surfaces in the rooms they clean.

"I don't even have the words to describe how dirty those rooms are," Melara said. 

She says the hotel has provided masks, gloves, and sanitizer to housekeepers, but they want full protective suits when they clean rooms, like hospital workers wear.

"Like the ones nurses have. They protect them from head to toe," Melara told NBC4.

Across town at the Holiday Inn at LAX, Nubia Calderon says she felt symptoms of COVID on July 6th and told her bosses. 'I had headaches, body aches. The pain was unbearable," Calderon told NBC4.

She says her bosses gave her the day off to get tested, but allowed her to keep working until she got a positive test result the following week and now she worries that she might have infected others at the hotel and her family.

"There are lives that are at risk," said Calderon.

In a statement to the I-Team, the Holiday Inn LAX said, "When the hotel...is notified of a positive COVID-19 case, [it] performs contact tracing...the management team took appropriate and immediate action to confirm no additional COVID-19 cases."

The Westin Long Beach didn't respond to repeated inquiries about workers concerns about the lack of personal protective equipment and employees testing positive.

As for the W Hotel Hollywood, the I-Team emailed the general manager Mark Eberwein, asking him to comment about the pool area where there appeared to be little social distancing and almost no one wearing masks.

He responded in an email saying, "We are operating our pool following local health authorities’ guidance. Additional steps include rigorous cleaning protocols and limiting access to registered hotel guests only."

The LA County Health Department told the I-Team it plans to continue doing surprise inspections at hotels.

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