Hotels, arenas, old nursing homes may be used for COVID-19 hospital overflow

Plans are in the works in Minnesota to find alternative places to treat COVID-19 patients if there isn’t enough room in the hospitals.

“Public buildings, we’re looking at hotels, we’re looking at recently shuttered nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, so there are a broad range of options on the table,” said Dr. John Hick the director of emergency preparedness at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis.

That also includes arenas and stadiums, which Minnesota Governor Tim Walz mentioned in his Wednesday media briefing. It’s a discussion happening between hospitals and the state. Minnesota Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Joe Kelly says a planning team is now assembled.

“Our goal is to identify sites around the state, obtain the equipment and supplies to operate them and then bring in the health care professionals that can take care of the patients,” said Kelly.

Kelly says it’s a process of finding sites, gear and staff. Details about where, when and who though, aren’t clear at this point.

“We are working on all three simultaneously as fast as we can, but job one is the sites and then we’ll address the stuff and staff,” he said.

There have also been talks with the hospitality industry about using hotels and resorts as places for those who still need to be quarantined after a hospital stay – but aren’t quite ready to go home.

“We really would prefer, if we can, not to put people on cots in gyms,” said Dr. Hick. “This will be a pretty high-risk population, often older, pretty weak coming out of the hospitals.”