Dana Point’s Monarch Beach Resort is bringing in public health experts to review and refine its reopening approach.
The 400-bed luxury resort, previously known as the St. Regis, paused its services on March 19 and resumed business 90 days later, bringing some 500 employees back to work. In that time, Monarch Beach Resort launched its StaySafe program to create a safe, near-contactless experience for employees and patrons.
Modifications to its offerings include new outdoor fitness classes and dining services that make use of the resort’s sprawling 175-acre coastal grounds, in addition to wellness seminars provided by the University of California-Irvine.
UCI is also providing Monarch Beach Resort with a first-ever coronavirus mitigation consultation.
“It’s never enough for us to simply meet standards. Since reopening our doors on June 18, our safety protocols have exceeded guidelines, and our work with UCI is intended to further elevate our program, establishing Monarch Beach Resort as a hospitality industry safety leader,” General Manager Markus Krebs said in a statement. “In this way, we keep not only our guests and employees safe, but also the broader Orange County community.”
Redwood City’s Ohana Real Estate Investors paid about $497 million for the resort in late 2019; it’s the highest reported price for an Orange County hotel property.
Ohana is funded by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Ohana was the original owner of Montage Laguna Beach until its sale to Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc. for $360 million in 2015.
UCI is home to the county’s only public health program, which works closely with its department of epidemiology, and will soon become the School of Population Health.
“We have the expertise, and we’re uniquely qualified to help people and businesses reopen,” Karen Edwards, professor and chair of epidemiology at UCI and the lead faculty member for the project, told the Business Journal.
Faculty members jumped into action in January, with a host of early efforts including COVID data tracking and antibody testing in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The new program is an extension of these efforts, Edwards said.
Edwards and her team put together a revised plan for Monarch Beach Resort within two weeks, after conducting an observational site visit, spending about half a day on the resort grounds, and reviewing instructional materials.
Her team also created a 45-minute training video for staff members.
“Monarch Beach has been proactive and very responsible about reopening,” said Edwards, who noted recommendations mostly revolved around vigilance.
For example: hand-washing needs to be done frequently—not twice a day. Masks need to be worn to cover the nose and mouth. High-contact surface areas need to be sanitized constantly.
As for the guests, Edwards said, “Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean the virus is. [Safety measures] can be inconvenient, but we hope that the relaxing environment the resort has created will help overcome that inconvenience.”
Moving forward, Edwards said students are likely to get involved in future business consultation projects.
And while each business and venue will have their own nuances and challenges, the program represents viable career opportunities in the field of public health.
“Public health differs from medicine in that we focus on entire groups of people. We think about populations or communities, and how the individual affects everyone else in the population,” Edwards said.
“Public health has always been a silent partner. This crisis has helped highlight the important role and function of public health and feature it as a career.”