This is part three in our series updating travelers about travel restrictions and all of the safety precautions put into place at the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE). We covered Massachusetts – from Cape Cod to Cape Ann and the Berkshires and Maine in our first story in this series. Next we examined the travel updates and protocols put into place at DINE’s New Hampshire and Connecticut inns in our second story in the series. Today we will focus in on everything that DINE’s Vermont inns have done to keep you safe when you travel to their fair state. Please note, as we’ve mentioned in other stories in this series: guidelines are changing regularly as the situation changes with the transmission of the virus across the USA. Please be sure to follow links in this story for the most up-to-date information.
As of October 16, 2020, the State of Vermont has ruled that any county with less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents is eligible for quarantine-free leisure travel to the state. The state government follows the following map, updated each Tuesday, to identify quarantine and non-quarantine counties throughout the Northeast including New England; New York; Pennsylvania; Ohio; New Jersey; Delaware; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and West Virginia.
The map is populated with raw data from Johns Hopkins University and uses multiple factors to determine how many active cases are in each county. The most up to date map determining non-quarantine travel to Vermont is here.
Residents of other states who live in counties across the Northeast including New England; New York; Pennsylvania; Ohio; New Jersey; Delaware; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and West Virginia that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont (defined as less than 400 active cases per million) may come to Vermont for leisure travel without quarantining if they do so in a personal vehicle.
Residents of other states who live in a quarantine county or are from any other state outside of the Northeast (including New England; New York; Pennsylvania; Ohio; New Jersey; Delaware; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and West Virginia), must follow quarantine guidelines:
- Travelers arriving to Vermont in a personal vehicle, may complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions.
- Travelers arriving to Vermont via public transportation (plane, train, bus) or from further than a direct car ride would allow may complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family (travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site).
- Read more about quarantining at the Vermont Department of Health website.
In addition, all out of state travelers utilizing lodging in Vermont must sign and complete a Certificate of Compliance or affirm a compliance statement via a digital check box at the time of reservation and check-in to attest that they meet the quarantine requirement, have traveled from a county with similar active COVID-19 caseload per the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, or are an essential/authorized worker. Finally, all out of state travelers are strongly encouraged to register with Sara Alert upon arrival to Vermont to get two weeks of daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19.
Please note that Vermont residents are free to travel in-state without quarantine. In addition, essential travel is allowed without quarantine as outlined here. For complete guidance on travel to Vermont, click here.
Finally, remember, Vermont has a mask mandate state-wide.
Both of the Vermont DINE member inns have taken extensive precautions to ensure the safety of their guests and staff alike. After being closed throughout Spring for deep cleaning and updates to all cleanliness, food service, staffing and safety protocols, both the Grafton Inn and Rabbit Hill Inn have re-opened with the same wonderful hospitality, and elbow bumps or waves goodbye instead of hugs (for now!). Please note that as the situation changes, some of these operations may be updated or streamlined based upon need.
At Grafton Inn
Following guidelines from the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AHLA) Safe Stay initiative, designed to change standards to ensure both hotel guests and employees are confident in the cleanliness and safety of hotels, the Grafton Inn has put many new procedures into place. In addition to the AHLA guidelines, the Grafton Inn has also adopted the Center for Disease Control protocols and has implemented additional steps provided by the State of Vermont’s Restart VT Task Force. With this three-pronged approach, guests and staff alike can be assured of the safest possible environment for an upcoming getaway.
In general, masks are required when entering all Grafton Inn property buildings. In addition, enhanced cleaning standards throughout the inn, including guest rooms, both restaurants, all meeting spaces, common areas, and all back-of-house spaces have been put into place utilizing superior cleaning products with a greater concentration of bacteria-killing ingredients, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Social distancing practices and reducing person-to-person contact have been assured through various operations. Additional hand washing opportunities and hand sanitizer is now found throughout all spaces around the inn.
Grafton Inn’s cleaning and disinfecting protocols mean that particular attention is paid to high-touch, hard nonporous items including toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks, and flooring. In addition, several ozone generator units are now being utilized to deodorize, sanitize, and sterilize all areas up to 2500 square feet after every guest departure.
For now there is no in-room housekeeping during guests’ stay, but guests may request extra towels, sheets, amenities, etc. for door side delivery. For stays that are longer than two days, stayover service is available on request. All keys are sanitized after each use. Guest check out is done by leaving the room key in the door with the door left open upon departure. All final bills will be emailed to the email on file.
The inn’s restaurants are open for takeout and dining by reservation. As long as the weather allows, outdoor dining by reservation in the courtyard and the inn front porch are available. The inn has created several seasonal take-out specials for inn guests who’d like to enjoy food in rooms or at appropriately distanced seating now available throughout the inn.
Daily employee temperature checks and questionnaire related to COVID-19 tracking are in place. Any employee with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater is not permitted on property and are asked to stay home and not come to work. In addition, all employees receive COVID-19 safety and facilities sanitation training. All employees must wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as regulated by the federal and state governments with appropriate training for use and disposal.
Guests are asked to stay home if they are sick or have been exposed to others who are sick. Guests will receive a questionnaire related to COVID-19 tracking 24 hours in advance of arrival. If the guest answers yes to any part of the questionnaire, they will not be allowed on the inn property. If the guest does no answer before they arrive, these questions are asked at arrival. All possible means are being taken to reschedule stays that are impacted by COVID-19.
As has always been the case at Rabbit Hill Inn, the deep dedication to every guests’ comfort and experience, plus their well-being remains the priority. What’s changed? Perhaps now given the pandemic, innkeepers and staff are laser-focused on the health and safety, plus comfort of guests and staff without compromising the quality or feel of your Rabbit Hill Inn experience. As innkeeper Leslie Mulcahy says, “We have always taken great pride in our over-the-top high standards of cleanliness and sanitation, both in lodging and food service. Cleanliness and detail are in our DNA (every touch point has always been tended to diligently).” She reminds us that, “Most importantly, remember that there is always a warm smile behind our mask.”
Like the Grafton Inn, in response to the pandemic, the inn has embraced the collective guidance from the CDC, AHLA Stay Safe Program, VT Department of Health, Select Registry’s Select Safe-Stay Select , Enhanced cleaning protocols have been outlined and implemented throughout every aspect of the property with increased frequency to cleaning high-touch areas with disinfectant cleaners.
Like other DINE inns, the innkeepers at Rabbit Hill Inn ask that you contact them prior to arrival if you have any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, or if you have been in contact with someone showing such symptoms, and all efforts will be made to reschedule your trip. In addition, cancellation policies have been adjusted for those impacted by COVID-19.
When guests arrive at the Rabbit Hill Inn, they will be asked to complete a Certificate of Health Compliance. If any guest displays symptoms consistent with COVID-19 they will be asked to immediately seek medical attention. If a positive COVID-19 diagnosis be received, guests will be asked to check out and will be provided with a voucher for the balance due to be used toward a future stay. In addition, Vermont’s mask mandate requires masks to be worn throughout the property when outside your room.
All Rabbit Hill Inn staff members have pledged to self-assess and stay home if not feeling well. In addition, staff have been trained to maintain proper distancing as appropriate, wash hands or hand sanitize upon arrival and continue to do so frequently throughout their shift. All staff wear masks and other PPE, such as gloves, when it is appropriate.
Housekeeping service is available to guests upon request provided regulations allow for it. Guest preferences for housekeeping will be established at check in. Nightly turndown service has been suspended until it has been deemed permissible.
All common spaces (indoor and outdoor) are available for guest enjoyment. Seating modifications have been made to meet proper distancing. In addition, enhanced and frequent cleaning, especially in high-touch places have been established. The good news is that Rabbit Hill Inn’s well-loved collection of Stave Puzzles will still be available, with certain rules like only one couple may work on puzzles at a time. Puzzles will be taken out of service and cleaned after each use.
Dining room tables have been removed and are now spaced to maintain required physical distancing. After each guest seating, strict table and chair sanitation protocols occur. The Department of Health has authorized use of the inn’s regular menus but a digital menu is also available for use on cell phone equipped to read them. The breakfast buffets have been replaced with individually-plated offerings, yet the renowned food service and cuisine has not changed, nor has the ambiance of the firelit dining room.
Most importantly, all 10 of the DINE member inns remain resolute in providing the best guest experience for those enjoying romantic getaways to DINE country. Remember, as Leslie tells us, behind those masks are smiles, and while hugs may be virtual upon leaving, the heartfelt hospitality offered at DINE inns remains steadfast. Don’t forget to book directly with these DINE members when you make reservations.
Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic
Note: The Gateways Inn and Restaurant has moved on from DINE membership after the sale of the inn this summer. We all wish them well as they develop a new restaurant and will miss Eiran and Michelle Gazit, former owners.