ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa is laying off between 80 and 85 employees and shuttering all food and beverage service according to a state hospitality union, that following a city-mandated closure of restaurants, bars and breweries until March 31.
The announcement also follows Friday's disclosure by Gov. Dunleavy that Alaska's first positive case of COVID-19, a pilot for a private air cargo company, stayed at Sheraton Anchorage prior to testing positive.
UNITE HERE Local 878 President Marvin Jones confirmed the layoffs Monday, and says UNITE HERE is working with all affected employees on securing unemployment benefits from the State of Alaska.
"Economically, we're having a bigger hit from this than from 9/11," Jones said of the effects felt across the hospitality industry nationwide.
Jones says employees are concerned by the economic uncertainty as well as the potential for being exposed to coronavirus themselves.
Jones' message for employees concerned about the latter is to take care of themselves.
"Make sure you wash your hands -- wash your hands repeatedly and often and do it for at least 20 seconds," Jones said. "If you have any type of symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or high fever, please contact your local health care provider, and have as little contact as possible for the next several weeks."
State officials had not released any specific details about the hotel before Friday, when Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his office received a press release from the Sheraton Hotel just before walking into the afternoon press briefing.
Late Tuesday evening following KTUU's initial reporting and several attempts to reach out for comment in previous days, a spokesperson for Sheraton parent company Remington Hotels denied that any press release had been sent to Gov. Dunleavy.
In a statement provided to KTUU, Chief Operating Officer Stan Kennedy attributed the "decision to operate with a reduced staff and furlough a select number of hotel employees" to the broader economic decline as a result of coronavirus.
“As the country contends with the effort to contain the coronavirus, the hospitality industry has been seriously challenged, and the Sheraton Anchorage is no different," Kennedy's statement said in part. "Business demand for our hotel has dramatically decreased due to decreased international and domestic air travel and the property’s food and beverage outlets have closed per city direction until at least the end of the month. Decisions like these are never taken lightly and we anticipate returning operations to 100% as soon as we are able.”
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