Alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients to be built at Wisconsin State Fair Park

NOW: Alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients to be built at Wisconsin State Fair Park

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58)- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along with state and local leaders are partnering up to build an alternative care facility at Wisconsin State Fair park for COVID-19 patients.

Milwaukee County officials say the alternative care facility will be set up inside the expo center at Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. Leaders are still planning on the amount of beds the facility would house, but say building could start in days. 

With positive cases soon expected to be in the thousands in Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says leaders are getting together to prepare what comes next.

“The modeling that has been done has led us at least at the government level to conclude that this is a prudent step to take,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

“We want to avoid a situation where we decide we need this facility too late when we have patients in need,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director for Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Weston says the expo center would be turned into a hospital like facility with cubicles that would provide care for coronavirus patients.

“The state fairgrounds provide an optimal location for this space considering the ease of access, abundant parking, and central location to a variety of resources,” adds Dr. Weston.

“We have the facilities, we are ready and we are looking to make sure that we are operational as quickly as possible,” said John Yingling, Chairman of the State Fair Park Board.

Cities like Chicago and Detroit have already requested similar facilities from The Army Corps of Engineers.

County Executive Chris Abele says it typically takes a week to 10 days after a request has been made before they start building, but it could be sooner.

“In Chicago’s request they had their build out done in I believe it was 18 hours,” says Abele.

“This is an attempt to prepare in the event that we need this,” said Mayor Barrett. “Now when I say when we need this, we are talking 10 days to 21 days.”

And while leaders continue preparing for the worst, they want everyone to continue following guidelines in order to minimize spread.

“Best way to avoid the scenario where we’re using that building is to stay home and save lives, it’s to isolate and avoid social contact,” adds Abele.

Mayor Barrett says along with beds themselves, another hurdle is figuring out whether there is enough personnel and personal protective equipment within area hospital systems to support the facility being built.

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