Innisfree Hotels makes COVID vaccine mandatory for hotel and restaurant staff

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Innisfree Hotels — one of Pensacola Beach’s largest employers — announced it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for its employees.

In an announcement Wednesday, the company said all employees will need to receive their first vaccine by September 15 and be fully vaccinated one month later.

“After researching the data and speaking to medical and business professionals, we believe this was the best thing to do to protect the integrity of employees and our guests,” the CEO and Chairman said. of Innisfree, Ted Ent. News magazine.

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Innisfree is one of the biggest employers in the area. According to data from FloridaWest, the company is the eighth-largest employer with 750 employees in the region and more than 2,000 employees at its other properties in the Gulf Coast region.

Innisfree has a series of hotels and restaurants primarily on Pensacola Beach but also around town, including the Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Hilton Pensacola Beach, Surf and Sand Hotel, and Hyatt Place Pensacola Airport.

It has Bonsai restaurants, H2O Grill, Red Fish Blue Fish, Riptides Tiki Bar & Grill, UFOs mini golf and ice cream, and Water Pig BBQ, all on Pensacola Beach.

Under the new policy, new employees will need to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before their first day of employment, and any employee who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons or strong religious belief will need to provide documents.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our decision-making process has been guided by health, safety and scientific evidence,” Ent said in a statement released Wednesday. “This resolution comes in response to the sharp increase in cases among the unvaccinated and the spreading Delta variant. With this requirement, we intend to better protect our staff and guests from exposure to COVID-19, by staying true to our core value of helping those who help us.”

Innisfree: ‘We think it’s the right decision to make’

Several large employers in the Pensacola area have vaccination policies in place, but most of them are health care organizations, including Ascension Sacred Heart and Baptist Health Care.

Ascension Sacred Heart informed employees in late July that it would require all staff, doctors, volunteers and vendors to be vaccinated against the virus by November 12. Baptist changed its policy Aug. 9 to require all staff, doctors, volunteers, students and contractors hired before Sept. 1 to receive both doses of the vaccine by Nov. 1.

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Ent said he hadn’t seen many employers in the hospitality industry mandating vaccines, but executives believed it was necessary. Guests and customers will not be required to be vaccinated.

“We believe this is the right step to take,” Ent told the News Journal.

COVID-19 outbreak overwhelms hospitals

The company’s decision comes at a time when officials are urging the community to get vaccinated as another wave overwhelms hospitals with patients.

Escambia County experienced its highest hospitalization rate earlier this month when 398 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on August 25. On Wednesday, Escambia County’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 334 people had been hospitalized with the virus at the three major Pensacola hospitals, Baptist, Ascension Sacred Heart and West Florida.

Officials said between 90% and 95% of people hospitalized with complications from COVID-19 during the latest wave were not vaccinated. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 tracking website, 50.4% of Escambia County residents received at least one dose of the vaccine on Sunday, a slight increase from three weeks ago when authorities reopened. the Brownsville Community Center vaccination clinic site when the rate was 46%.

Florida Department of Health data for the week ending Friday showed 3,067 new cases in Escambia County for that week.

Emma Kennedy can be reached at [email protected] or 850-480-6979.

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