Staying Safe(r) in the Covid Age

Update: as of September 25, 2020, Mariposa County is one of the very few California counties allowed by the state to move into the Yellow Tier, the least restrictive level (see the state Blueprint for a Safer Economy), thanks in no small part to the aggressive actions of our excellent county health officer, Dr. Sergienko. We still maintain our enhanced cleaning, but we no longer have a gap night between visits. Dr. Sergienko requires a gap night if we are Red or worse (the state just recommends a gap) and recommends a gap night if we are Orange. At Yellow, there is no requirement or recommendation for a gap.

As you might imagine, welcoming guests from around the country carries with it some fears of our own both for us personally and in our community generally. Our goal is to keep ourselves safe, our guests safe and our broader Yosemite community safe.

If you’re not worried about the safety aspect, you can skip to the section on downsides, which highlights a few minor (we hope) inconveniences that result from all this.

Planning and Communicating

We have in the past really enjoyed welcoming guests and poring over maps in over the dining table shoulder to shoulder to help plan their outings. We now try to keep a safe distance and meet with our guests only outdoors. Nevertheless, we are more than happy to talk in the yard and help with plans, or to answer questions by email. There are lots of ways to communicate, and please understand that we still want to provide you with any and all information you need, it might just be via a method that is not quite as warm, but our intention is the same!

Cleaning between Guests

In addition, we have a number of measures in place to enhance safety for us and our guests. Of course, we cannot guarantee safety from Covid-19, but we are taking precautions to reduce the chance of spread. Some of these measures, sadly, make the experience a little less “homey,” but that is the reality we live in now (more on this below). Key measures to keep us all safe.

  • In warm weather, we ask guests to open a few windows before leaving and to turn on the bathroom fan to help turn air over. We do the same when done cleaning. In other times, we have an Austin Ar Healthmate, medical-grade HEPA filter that we ask guests to turn on before leaving.
  • High-filtration filters in the heating system with a MERV rating of over 13 (Filtrete MPR of 1900 or higher; MPR 2800 filters if obtainable). There are many standards, but this is roughly speaking a HEPA filter. See the New York Times article on The Best Furnace Filters 2020 (opens in new tab) for more information.
  • We wear masks while cleaning and wear masks if we do have to enter the rental during your stay (though we simply try to avoid that altogether if possible).
  • We have large amounts of the safest disinfectants we could find approved for Covid-19. Since we will be using them frequently and depending on them to keep us safe, we looked for disinfectants that gave us both reassurance that they were effective and also that they were not noxious. We have settled on hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down into water and oxygen, and Vital Oxide. Vital Oxide is approved for food-contact surfaces without rinsing and breaks down into a salt.
  • All dishes and pots and pans and utensils get washed between guests. We empty the cupboards and wash all items, used or unused and while the shelves are empty we spray the shelves disinfectant.
  • All towels and linens get washed including sheets, pillowcases, pillow protectors, mattress pads, and blankets, including unused linens left on the shelves. The official state guidelines state: “Do not store extra linens or in the rental unit. Provide such items only on request.” For the convenience of our guests, we are putting a minimal amount of extra linens in the unit in sealed bags and only washing them if the seal is broken.
  • For the thicker blankets, we have multiple sets and we rotate them, so we can box up the ones from the most recent guest and let them sit for a few days before we handle them.
  • Spray light switches, thermostats, TV remotes and other high touch surfaces with a disinfectant approved for Covid-19.
  • Keyless entry so no key handoff required. This is not contactless entry as you do have to enter the code on the keypad, but we disinfect the keypad between guests.
  • Provide alcohol-based sanitizer for us and our guests.
  • HEPA filter on the vacuum cleaner.
  • Sealed spice grinders and individual spice packets available.
  • Keurig coffee maker with individual-use K-Cups. This was a tough one for us, but county public health officials were emphatic about not leaving open food bags, so we can no longer provide bulk coffee. If you dislike the waste or simply prefer a different coffee experience, just let us know. Upon request, we will put out a 2-cup French press and coffee grinder, so coffee aficionados can grind their beans as they like.

The Downside

There is a huge upside to all this — most summers, people encounter traffic jams and crowding. This year, even on Fourth of July and Memorial Day it was pleasant being out and about.

There are a few downsides to all this. We try to provide enough of everything to keep our guests comfy, but given the new cleaning protocols, we are providing fewer of some things and have stopped providing some things altogether:

With respect to our accommodations:

  • Fewer spices. We recommend guests bring their own.
  • No bulk foods like cooking oil, coffee, flour, sauces, and condiments.
  • Fewer spare linens (more available upon request).
  • Fewer dishes (again, more available upon request – we want people to be comfy, but try to keep it to three dishwasher loads per changeover).
  • Fewer throw pillows, decorative blankets and such.
  • Above all, less close-up face to face contact. Again, we are always happy to give advice and help you plan your trip to get the most out of your time, but we won’t be gathering around the table poring over books and maps with you.
  • We do still have a closed shelf of DVDs and guidebooks. We generally do a very light, quick spray of that shelf and close the doors. We leave it up to our guests whether or not they are comfortable with using those items or not.
  • We have the fastest internet you can get here, but it isn’t fast by most standards. For the low, low price of $363 per month, we get 1.5Mbps — the FCC standard to be considered broadband is 25Mbps. We are counting on Elon Musk to get Starlink up and running for central California and give us something at least close to broadband. We encourage guests who do not want to use our DVD library and want to have some entertainment to download a few movies ahead of time to a device that can connect via HDMI to the TV (there is no broadcast TV reception).

With respect to the park in general

  • The shuttle system is not running this year. For the most part, this is not too bad, since parking is plentiful. But there are a couple of places where it adds significantly to your walk:
    • Mariposa Grove. It is now a two-mile walk from the parking lot to the first giant trees. This road is, however, open for biking this year (normally it is not). If you can bring bikes, they could be handy.
    • Mirror Lake. Normally you can shuttle to the trailhead, but now you would have to walk from trailhead parking, Curry Village or the Ahwahnee Hotel. There may also be parking at the Stables near North Pines campground.
    • Any route that doesn’t end where it started. For example, up the Four Mile Trail and down the Panorama Trail. In the past you could shuttle from one trailhead to the other, but now you will need to walk it.
  • Limited food service. The restaurant offerings are limited. Stock up on lunchable picnic items and, for the most part, plan to cook at home.

So there you have it. I think we’re being responsible, though with some regret that we can’t, as we did before, supply many extra sets of dishes and towels and all that. We’re just trying to find the right balance and get our Covid-era system dialed in.

We do want you to be comfortable. We’re not trying to make it a spartan experience, but just trying to avoid a lot of unnecessary waste. So if you are short on anything, let us know.