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story.lead_photo.caption The Grand Lobby of the Hot Springs Convention Center was vacant on Thursday. The center has been closed to events since mid-March. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record.

As the Hot Springs Convention Center reopened Monday, Visit Hot Springs made a point to let visitors and staff members know it is committed to their health and well-being.

"We prioritize the health and safety of attendees, exhibitors, staff and business partners," the convention and visitors bureau said in a newsletter it sent out. "Our team is committed to upholding the highest standards of cleanliness throughout our facility. In light of the dramatic changes to public health guidance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have updated or enhanced many of our cleaning and safety protocols to help ensure the safety and security of everyone who walks through our doors."

Current plans and protocols, according to the newsletter, are as follows:

• Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the building and in close proximity to every meeting room door. The touch-free stations dispense an alcohol-based disinfectant.

• All touch-points are disinfected on a continual basis during event hours and overnight. Touch-points include stair and escalator handrails, door handles, door crash-bars, elevator and ATM buttons, concession stand counters and tables, and common-area tables and benches.

• Restrooms are regularly and thoroughly disinfected during event hours. Restrooms feature touch-free toilet fixtures, urinal fixtures, and paper-towel dispensers. The touch-free designs reduce cross-contamination and encourage better hygiene.

• Capacity charts for all exhibit halls, ballrooms, and meeting rooms will be revised to allow for physical distancing standards.

• All public areas will be configured to include wider aisles and orderly queues, where needed.

• Where possible, public access doors will be designated as either entrance or exit only, to limit cross pedestrian traffic and personal contact.

• Print and digital signage in public areas to remind guests of important hygiene measures and physical distancing.

• All employees are wearing face masks until further notice; some staff members will wear additional personal protective equipment suitable for their duties.

• All employees receive COVID-19 awareness training and continuous education for their roles.

• All employees have access to paid time off. Employees are instructed to stay home when they feel ill and to inform the human resources team immediately if they are aware of any possible exposure to COVID-19.

The newsletter also states all catering operations have been assessed and updated to align with best practices for safety and hygiene. Protocols include the following:

• All employees must complete health screenings at the beginning of each shift and wear hairnets, gloves, and hats if their responsibilities require them.

• All food will be served as individual portions. Prepackaged snacks are available instead of dessert trays.

• Attendants are required to pour coffee at stations.

• Bulk water will no longer be available in meeting rooms. Bottled water is available at lecterns and any additional water service needs can be provided through Turf Catering Services, the center's food and beverage provider.

• Kitchens have been redesigned to meet physical distancing standards.

"We expect to build on these plans as new information becomes available to us and as we continue preparing to reopen for meetings and events," the newsletter said.

To extend safety measures of the building, Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison contacted Embassy Suites Hotel, 400 Convention Blvd., via email to notify them that due to the pandemic, Bank OZK Arena will only be opened when there is an event in the facility.

"Any of your guests who are attending events in the convention center will have to walk up the sidewalk to gain entry," Arrison's email said. "The sky bridge between our two properties will also be closed."

"I realize," he continued, "that this is less than ideal for our clients and wish we did not have to take this step. Hopefully in the near future things will loosen back up and we can return to our normal operations."

Local on 05/20/2020

Print Headline: VHS prioritizes health, well-being of visitors, employees

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