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A hotel could be converted into a COVID-19 hospital in just 10 days. Here's how.

International design firm HKS examines how hotels and schools can be rapidly converted into hospitals.

With countries worldwide grappling with hospital bed shortages, international design firm HKS has asked a pertinent question: what if we used hotels and high schools for converting into hospitals?

It’s a question arising from a sobering statistic. Studies have suggested that five to nine million people infected with the coronavirus in the United States may need hospitalisation, a third of whom would require intensive care. According to The American Hospital Association there are approximately 920,000 staffed beds.

The issue of how to prepare multiple building types for quick conversion into temporary patient care facilities was explored by HKS in collaboration with Mazzeti through two concept papers forming part of a new COVID-19 Conversions series.

The first examined how to convert a hotel with the goal of caring for low-acuity COVID-19 patients, while more recently HKS looked at the rapid conversion of high schools into functional patient care spaces should the virus spread to predicted levels.

From hotel to hospital in 10 days

HKS dived into detail in the case of hotel conversion through a webinar, How Can Hotels and Health Facilities Work Together to Address COVID-19.

It set out its approach by establishing that the CDC has provided guidance on alternate care sites (ACS) where patients with COVID-19 can receive medical care for the duration of their isolation period. These are typically in non-traditional environments - such as converted hotels.

ACS could provide two levels of care, the lowest of which – general, low level care for mildly to moderately symptomatic COVID-19 patients – would be suitable for guest room conversion in a hotel (guest floors and patient floors are similar).

Low acuity patients would benefit from having a private bathroom, as well as television and WiFi. Upon conclusion of the COVID-19 outbreak, most of the carpet would require removal before the resumption of normal hotel operations.

Ballroom areas meanwhile would be better suited to a different purpose altogether - patient wards offering direct observation and immediate care. An advantage highlighted by HKS in the webinar was that the ballroom allowed a more efficient clinician to patient staffing ratio.

Another way that ballrooms served a ward configuration well was through its air exchanges: in ballrooms they tend to be at higher rates than guest rooms, with higher percentages of outside air.

Air was highlighted in the webinar as a challenge – negative pressure in particular (most hotel HVAC systems are not able to create a negative pressure in guest/patient rooms) – alongside wiring and other modifications required for temporarily housing COVID-19 patients.

A full-service convention hotel would nonetheless allow for a conversion timeline for 10 to 14 days, with the right resources and team (mentioned in the webinar was the possibility of offering hotel staff a care role if training was delivered quickly enough).

Update: HKS selected to convert Michian Expo Center into COVID-19 field hospital

In an effort to help the Detroit region fight the COVID-10 pandemic, HKS has partnered with Gilbane Building Company for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on an 1,100-bed temporary field hospital in Novi, Michigan. The convention center retrofit at the 250,000 square-foot Suburban Center Showplace will treat COVID-19 patients and is expected to be operational on Apr. 20, a 15-day turn-around from start to finish.

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