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Chena Hot Springs Resort to Open with COVID-19 Changes

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Chena Hot Springs Resort plans to reopen Friday. The popular destination 60 miles east of Fairbanks, has been closed since March 21st, but as Alaska’s disease rate has slowed and stabilized,

resort Marketing Director Javier Villasenor Gaona says public demand has rebounded.

"People are actually driving up here a lot, and they were literally trespasing," he said.  "So, we found out that people do want to come out here. If we follow the mandates, we can do it safely and have the guests come back.”

Villasenor-Gaona says state health mandates are especially complicated for the resort because it has a wide range of facilities, including pools, a hotel, restaurant, and greenhouse.

"We actually operate about eight businesses in one, so it's like very hard to poinpoint what we need to follow. And when you go in deep and read the mandates, they're kind of difficult to understand in a way. They mention things one way, then in another mandate, they mention things in a different way.”

Villasenor-Gaona stresses that both the state health mandates and resort rules could change by this weekend, but that currently special precautions are planned to minimize risk of disease spread.

"We are going to havee a check point at the gate to register everybody who comes in, do a screening before and after they get here; when they get here, we're going to be asking a few questions, and then we'll have a termperature gun ready, if we need to take any temperatures. We're going to have an employee log-in where we are going to be screening every employee before their shift.” 

Villasenor-Gaona says guests are asked to bring and wear their own masks, dining will be outdoors, and resort-wide capacity restrictions are likely, cautioning that they know not everyone is going to be happy.

"We don't want to have confrontations with our guests, ou know some people are very skeptical about it, some are very scared about it. I think it's something we will figure out the first week that we open.”

He notes that the resort is in top shape as employees have remained living on site through the closure, doing maintenance, renovations, and deep cleaning.  He says the staff was initially furloughed but is being paid again thanks to a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.