New SARS screening policy rejects hotel guest

Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2003

After spending four days in Alaska last week criss-crossing the state on business, mining executive John Fox and consultant Peter Bosse were ready for a one-night stay at the Westmark Baranof Juneau before heading home.

But when they arrived at the hotel last Thursday with reservations made two weeks in advance, the two were turned away as a potential risk for carrying severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS.

Fox, who traveled from Balikbaban, Indonesia, had connecting flights in Hong Kong and Singapore on his way to Alaska. Both areas have had SARS outbreaks within the past month, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Baranof learned of Fox's travel itinerary through a new SARS screening questionnaire hotel guests are required to fill out.

Guests are asked if they have traveled to Singapore, mainland China or Taiwan, and if they have had close contact with a confirmed or suspected SARS patient or visited a SARS health-care facility within the past 10 days.

Gerd Krause, general manager of the Baranof Hotel, said the new SARS screening procedure was put into effect Thursday and Bosse and Fox were the first customers turned away due to the policy.

"Our belief and the company's belief is that we get people from all over the world, and we just do it to protect our customers," he said.

Krause said the Baranof is working to communicate the new policy to visitors before they travel to Juneau.

But Bosse, 63, a mining consultant from the Sacramento area, called the policy "ridiculous." Fox, 55, chief financial officer of Kelian Equatorial Mining in Indonesia, was unavailable for an interview.

The Baranof made arrangements with the Goldbelt Hotel to take in Bosse and Fox. Bosse said he told Baranof staff on Thursday that the policy is "an affront to our business associates from the rest of the world."

"I told him this is very bad for Juneau, this is very bad for Alaska and this is very bad for the United States," Bosse said.

The Baranof is operated by Westmark Hotels, which is using the SARS screening questionnaire at its 13 hotels in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

The questionnaire was developed by the Seattle-based cruise line Holland America Line, which owns Westmark Hotels.

Rose Abello, vice president of Holland America, said the questionnaire was developed after the outbreak of SARS in November.

In late April, Holland America made the questionnaire a requirement for all passengers boarding its 12 cruise ships. Last week, the company decided to extend the screening program to its hotels.

Abello said the questions in the screening process were developed in accordance with the International Council of Cruise Lines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once the CDC removes Hong Kong and Singapore from its list of SARS outbreak areas, the hotels also will remove those areas from its questionnaire, Abello said. She noted, however, that cities and areas can be added to the list, just as they can be removed.

According to the CDC, Singapore has been under a travel alert since May 6, meaning there is a limited risk for contracting the disease while visiting the country.

Hong Kong and the rest of mainland China is under a CDC travel advisory since May 8, meaning the risk of contracting SARS is much higher than areas under a travel alert. The CDC recommends travelers avoid unessential travel to travel alert areas.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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