Jeramey Jannene

Convention Center, State Fair Park Could Become 1,200 Bed Facilities

"Alternative care sites" could be operated by federal government.

By - Apr 2nd, 2020 02:50 pm
Hospital bed being setup in McCormick Place. U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec

Hospital bed being setup in McCormick Place. U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec.

More information continues to emerge on what could be in store for two of Wisconsin’s largest event venues.

Wisconsin Center District CEO Marty Brooks updated the district board Thursday morning on the discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“What they are looking for, at least as of yesterday’s discussion, is the ability for our facility or State Fair’s to accommodate up to 1,200 beds,” said Brooks. He announced Monday that a group from the Army Corps of Engineers was studying both the Wisconsin Center in Westown and Wisconsin State Fair Park in suburban West Allis.

“There would not be any critical care done on either property. The critical care would be taken at hospitals,” said Brooks. He said it was inaccurate to characterize the use as a “field hospital.”

Brooks said his understanding is that things would be similar to what is being done with the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago.

The Chicago facility, including setup time, is expected to be used for 90 days. The first 500 beds in the facility are scheduled to be available by the end of the week according to the Chicago Tribune. Eventually the convention center will have 3,000 beds.

Members of the Illinois National Guard are supporting the buildout.

Cloth dividers will separate the beds. The facility is intended for those experiencing mild symptoms related to COVID-19.

What’s the timeline in Milwaukee? “It’s still in the initial investigatory phase,” said Brooks. He said the district expected to be reimbursed for its costs related to the buildout, should it be used.

Governor Tony Evers has provided limited information on potential facilities during his media briefing, but has confirmed the state is working with the federal government on potential sites across the state. “The responsible thing is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Evers last Friday.

The state announced Tuesday it was opening a smaller isolation facility in a Super 8 hotel near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. The City of Milwaukee partnered with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the City of St. Francis on a similar facility on the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary campus.

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