Columbus company switches gears, helps find medical professionals places to stay

In This Together

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Columbus-based company has changed up its business model in a matter of days to help healthcare workers have places to stay while keeping their families safe as well.

Now, Airriva needs the community’s help as many caregivers as possible.

Airriva specializes in high-end short-term lodging – naturally, when the stay-at-home order hit, almost all of their units emptied with no one traveling.

So Airriva got creative and found a way to keep their employees working, while also supporting the Ohio healthcare workers when they leave the hospitals.

Zach Griggs is an ER nurse who lives in Columbus, and every week heads north to do coronavirus battle at Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s really hard to prepare for something that’s going on like this,” he said. “It’s definitely pretty scary. My girlfriend actually is an ICU nurse, so we are both kinda in the same boat on that front.”

Griggs has been doing this commute since November and, at first, would simply stay with friends during the days he worked in Cleveland. Now, that’s just not the best idea.

“I generally go up there three to four days in a row and my friends who I stay with aren’t in the healthcare field and I didn’t really want to expose them to anything,” he explained. “They’re not in the at-risk population, but I just didn’t want to take the chance of taking it to their place.”

He is far from alone in his fears. Lynne Ashkar’s husband is a pulmonary physician at Summa Akron City Hospital where he encounters COVID-19 every day.

“It’s highly contagious, I have two kids at home and I’m worried,” she said. “He’s literally on the frontline. He’s the critical care physician, he works in the ICU, he does intubations.”

Many healthcare workers across Ohio have the fear of bringing their work home with them. Now, Airriva has stepped in to help.

“We’re happy that we’re in a position that we can give back and help these people who are keeping us safe,” said Seth Whittaker, a sales partner executive with Airriva.

The company specializes in high-end, short-term stay rentals.

“Our model is central, unique and modern,” explained Whittaker. “So basically, when people are coming in town and they’re looking for a nice high-end option, we’re able to provide that.”

When the Ohio stay-at-home order came down, it really caused a shift in Airriva’s business. Their units went from 95 percent occupancy, to just 10 percent. Instead of giving up, the company came together and did some tweaking and became a part of the Caregiver Shelter Fund – a donation-based initiative that gives healthcare workers free lodging away from the hospitals.

“An opportunity where the community can donate so the caregivers have somewhere to stay, protect their families, flatten the curve, and to prevent the contact they have between shifts,” Whittaker said.

“It’s nice to see so many people help step up and look after their healthcare workers,” said Ashkar with a smile.

The need is so great that after only a couple weeks, Airriva already has a waitlist of caregivers.

“I know that we even have a couple [on the waitlist] who are living in their cars because they are so fearful to bring the virus back to their loved ones,” said Whittaker. “The more community involvement we have and the more money we raise, the more caregivers we’re going to be able to help and we want to help as many as we possibly can.”

Airriva has properties in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. They have also partnered with MRN – the company that manages the Double Tree and Holiday Inn Express – so when all their units are filled, hotel rooms can be used as well. These units are also thoroughly cleaned following the CDC’s sanitation standards.

“It is really nice to have somewhere that you don’t have to worry about getting somebody sick,” Griggs said. “You can kinda just take a break from the craziness for a little while until you have to go back the next day.”

To help put a healthcare worker in a safe home away from home, go to https://www.caregivershelterfund.org/.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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