By MC1 Scott Wichmann
Clad in blue uniform scrubs and facemasks, Angela Marziani and Francesca Ginechesi push a hospitality cart down the long, sunlit open-air corridors of the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites (NGIS) hotel, at Naval Support Activity Naples.
For the Italian housekeeping employees servicing rooms at NGIS Capodichino, each new day is fraught with uncertainty as they are brought into close contact with the intimate living environment of total strangers, highlighting the unique challenges facing hospitality employees during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Initially I was very afraid of the situation,” said Marziani, who, like Ginechesi, has worked for 13 years as a housekeeper for TriStar, a Milan-based company contracted to service rooms at NGIS Capodichino. “But as days went by, I understood that the management adopted all the right measures, so I felt more secure to come to work.”
COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads primarily through close contact with an infected person and can be passed through droplets of saliva, coughs and sneezes, as well as by touching an object or surface contaminated with the virus, and subsequent touching of the eyes, mouth, or face.
Although measures have been put in place to mitigate transmission, hotel hospitality workers still find themselves at the daily edge of possible contact with the virus.
Both Department of Defense (DoD) guidance for personnel travel during the Coronavirus outbreak and Naval Administrative Message (NAVADMIN) 113/20 require service members entering Italy from the Continental United States to undergo a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) period. Within that time frame, members are required to stay in their rooms. As a result, for service members checking into NGIS Capodichino, some of their only interactions are with the hotel’s hospitality staff.
“The nice thing about all the housekeepers is they really care,” said Enza Cerbone, Liaison Group Coordinator for NGIS Capodichino. “They have this motherly attitude towards all the guests. They really feel responsible for them.”
Ginechesi said the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic took her, Marziani, and their fellow housekeeping employees by surprise, especially when administrative measures resulted in a reduced number of employees per shift.
“The most challenging part was when we had to face so many changes,” she said. “We had to work with less people on staff than normal. Then we started to see the reality that something had changed.”
Ginechesi said the new procedures required some adjustment from her and her co-workers.
“There have been more strict rules,” she explained, “like only allowing two people in the elevator at a time, and lunch breaks with only two people at a time. We understood these rules were to keep everyone safe..”
Marziani said despite their early trepidation about going into guests' personal spaces during a pandemic, the staff pushed forward because the job of cleaning and refreshing rooms simply had to get done.
“Obviously the whole team was afraid because we didn’t know exactly what we were facing,” said Marziani. “But we found the strength within ourselves to keep on working day by day.”
Cerbone said the staff’s fearless commitment to their job comes with an even deeper commitment to the specific community they serve.
“When we came to one Sailor’s room with the cart to ask if he needed anything,” said Marziani, “He gave us (a sense of) security and reassured us by putting his mask and even his rubber gloves on. When he did that, he was also taking care of us. That was very nice of him.”
Marziani and Ginechesi routinely clean and refresh each room with speed, precision and teamwork, leveraging a silent communication built up over thirteen years on the job together, and often complete a thorough room servicing in less than 20 minutes.
Cerbone said Marziani and Ginechesi are part of the backbone of the NGIS team.
“I’ve known them forever,” said Cerbone. “I started here 20 years ago, so I met them when they first started working here. They are like sisters. They like what they do and their strength is their friendship.”
Cerbone, who was named the 2019 Commander, Naval Installations Command (CNIC) Front Desk Associate of the year for her outstanding customer service, said the implementation of social distancing measures have taken away a vitally important part of daily Italian life, something she hopes to get back soon.
“What keeps me going is just positive thinking and the knowledge that things will get better,” she said.
Cerbone stressed that no matter how long the pandemic lasts, outstanding customer service will always remain the number one priority for NGIS staff members.
“We want to say thank you to the guests for bearing with us in this situation,” said Cerbone. “We want the guests staying here in the hotel to feel comfortable knowing we’re doing everything in our power to keep them safe.”