Staples Center, L.A. Convention Center, Aqueduct Racetrack And O.C. Fairgrounds Could Be Used As Emergency Hospitals

Mourners make their way to Staples Center to pay their respect to NBA Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi's memorial service in Los Angeles, California, USA, 24 February 2020. (Photo credit: ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

COVID-19 cases are rising, with the percentages so far indicating a large number of people will get seriously ill from the virus. As such, government officials are preparing to handle a patient overflow by using non-traditional venues as hospitals.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a press conference earlier this week that the Los Angeles Convention Center will be used for “non-licensed” care of COVID-19 patients, such as quarantines and recovery. They are expecting equipment to be delivered on Saturday but couldn’t provide a hard date for when the facility will open to accept patients.

“If you go to a place like Staples Center, it’s a small place compared to the [Los Angeles Convention Center] or other things,” Garcetti said. “Whether it’s the hotels and motels, who need our help badly right now, and at the beginning some were saying, ‘Well, we don’t know if we want to take patients,’ many of them now have said, ‘Absolutely, we would take patients, people who need isolation and quarantine.’”

The naval hospital ship Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday to offer 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms. The ship will take care of non-COVID-19 patients to free up regional hospital beds for those who do. Some non-COVID-19 patients already in county hospitals will be transferred to the ship to continue treatment, port officials said Thursday.

Michael Ostroff, a 65-year-old Pasadena retiree who lives near the Rose Bowl, said something is going on at that venue. The Rose Bowl announced all events in the near future will not be held, including a highly anticipated appearance by South Korean boy band BTS in early May.

“The parking lot on the west side of the stadium has been fenced off and wrapped with a green tarp, so you can’t see inside,” Ostroff said. “I’d wondered why they would be preparing for something in these days of isolation. I didn’t see anything inside the closed-off area, but I wasn’t looking.”

Later in the day, the Rose Bowl sent a message to residents in the community that it would be a “location for key operational needs in support of the community’s response to the pandemic.”

The Orange County Fairgrounds are under consideration for emergency medical setups, reports indicate. A field hospital is also planned for the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, to be built by the California National Guard.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom said California will need about 50,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients at the state’s 416 existing hospitals.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suggested several makeshift hospital locations. In a speech at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which is already being revamped by the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and FEME, Cuomo offered several locations.
Among the unique venues Cuomo said could house up to 1,000 patients each are Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens (already in use for drive-up testing for COVID-19), SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury, and the Westchester Convention Center. If capacity is exceeded at those locations, other possible sites include CUNY College of Staten Island, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and the New York Expo Center.

“We know at this point that any scenario will overwhelm the capacity of our healthcare system, and we are continuing to work aggressively to increase our state’s hospital capacity and flatten the curve,” Cuomo said.

Elsewhere across the U.S., state governments are scrambling for solutions. Louisiana has deals with hotels to provide additional hospital beds. Las Vegas officials have considered that city’s convention center as a possible triage center. And military mobile hospitals have been promised to Washington state.

U.S. hospitals reported operating 74,000 ICU beds in 2018, with 64% filled on a typical day.

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