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State shops for temporary hospital space

Team is traveling state looking for large, vacant spaces to set up makeshift wards for non-critical patients.

MINNEAPOLIS — A team of public health and public safety experts have identified at least three spots in Minnesota that would be ideal for setting up temporary hospital wards as part of the battle against coronavirus.

Joe Kelly, the commissioner of Minnesota's Homeland Security Division, said Monday it was too early to divulge any exact locations. But he said the alternate care spaces located thus far would provide enough room for 500 temporary treatment beds.

"These would be in addition to the increased capacity the hospitals are creating themselves," Kelly explained.

"We’re not ready to identify which sites they’re considering yet because our team is early in the process. At this point, we don’t know where there’s going to end up."

One site being pitched by local city leaders in western Minnesota is the former private prison in the city of Appleton. Kelly said that started as a local effort and isn't sure how that will fit into the state's coordinate plans.

The goal, he said, is to create 2,750 temporary treatment beds for non-critical patients, allowing the critical care units in hospitals to concentrate on those who need intensive intervention.

He projected that 1,000 of those temporary beds would be located around the Twin Cities, while 1,750 would be in areas outside of the metro often referred to as Greater Minnesota.

During Monday's Minnesota Dept. of Health daily update, Gov. Walz said there's an intense effort underway to procure the personal protective equipment, aka PPEs, healthcare providers will need to respond to a huge influx of COVID-19 patients.

RELATED: Walz says equipment shortage is a concern, vows to supply front-line workers

Minnesota's Commissioner of Administration, Alice Roberts-Davis, is heading up the procurement efforts for that critical equipment and other medical supplies. 

Commissioner Roberts-Davis said that involves coordinating distribution of PPEs in the short term as well as long-range planning and logistical considerations for a wave of new patients when the disease peaks in late spring or early summer.

"Minnesota is in competition with 49 other states, and many other countries as we work to respond to this global pandemic," Roberts-Davis explained.

"But I think what’s different is that Minnesota is incredibly fortunate to have a thriving corporate community that we’re working with to fulfill these needs. From masks to ventilators, we have companies here at home that are working to step up and support our state, and we’re very grateful for their partnership."

RELATED: Health care providers make changes to cope with coronavirus spread

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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