Colorado Convention Center may not be needed by the time it’s ready for COVID-19 patients


DENVER (KDVR) — Renovations to convert Denver’s convention center into a field hospital began just a week ago, but there are increasing signs it may not be needed when it opens April 18.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, Scott Bookman, incident commander for the state’s COVID-19 response, admitted there are no hospitals currently in danger of running out of bed space.

In the same conference call, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist for Colorado, acknowledged case numbers appear to be leveling off. However, she cautioned it could be a few more days before the trend becomes clear.

“I really hope that we don’t have to use this facility at all,” is what Gov. Jared Polis said on Friday just before allowing the media to tour the convention center under renovation.

But on the same day, Polis made it clear he assumed the facility would be needed as a step-down facility for patients who no longer needed acute care at a hospital but weren’t ready to go home.

“I don’t think any of us should expect in Colorado that this facility will ever have to be full. Unfortunately, I also don’t expect that it will be completely empty,” the governor said.

The plan is to have 250 beds ready by April 18 with construction to be completed by April 27.

When done, the facility is anticipated to have a capacity of 2,000 beds.

“Our hope and goal is that we never use one bed in that convention center that has been set up. That’s the ultimate goal. But in the event that we have to, they are there,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday. 

Even if the convention center is never used for hospital patients, Hancock said it would still be repurposed for other needs.

“If we’re not using them for medical, then we’ll find a way to use them for our most vulnerable that need shelter that continue to need shelter,” he said.

The state has signed a lease with backing from FEMA to pay the City and County of Denver $1.8 million a month for use of the convention center. Polis has made it clear he would rather be over-prepared than under prepared.

“The saying doesn’t go, ‘Prepare for the best and hope for the best and then get caught flat-footed.’ We need to prepare for a realistic, bad-case scenario model,” he said.

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