NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates

Actions

Tennessee prepares to convert hotels, dorms into hospitals, lawmakers told

New York reports first coronavirus-related death in state
Posted at 11:59 AM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 19:55:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee is rapidly preparing to convert convention centers, college dormitories, hotels and other facilities into makeshift hospitals as the COVID-19 surge threatens to inundate state resources, lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Gov. Bill Lee and members of his team warned members of the General Assembly during conference calls that the next two to four weeks will be a critical test of state resources.

“We’re working with hospital providers and other providers to help build out and identify assets around the state,” said Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, who heads the state’s COVID-19 Unified Command.

“This includes convention centers, rural hospitals, motels, college dorms, hotels, hotel ballrooms – anything that we can find that’s existing assets that we can get into quickly."

“We know based on modeling that we are looking at that we will have a bed shortage, both with hospital beds as well as ICU beds. We are taking that very seriously.”

New modeling data from the University of Washington, made available Wednesday, slightly reduced the expected impact upon the state based on social-distancing measures that have been implemented.

But the news is still dire.

It suggests that the COVID-19 outbreak will peak in Tennessee on April 19th, with the state needing 14,945 hospital beds. Currently, there are only 7,812 available beds.

The model projects that 2,301 Intensive-Care Unit beds will be needed. There are only 629 ICU beds statewide.

In addition,1,841 ventilators will be needed. During the conference call, Lee told lawmakers that his team is still trying to count the number of available ventilators.

“We are assuming we don’t have enough,” Lee said.

At the peak, on April 19th, the University of Washington model projects that Tennessee will see 159 COVID-19 deaths per day.

It estimates there will be 3,259 COVID-19 deaths statewide by Aug. 4th.