With coronavirus spreading like wildfire across the nation, it puts a very important, and rather immediate, “worst-case scenario” in mind: Where will all of the surge coronavirus patients be placed once hospitals and healthcare facilities become flooded?
It looks like public health officials are being forced to prepare quickly for this worst-case scenario, with some hospitals already being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. It means that options for where overflow surge patients could go must be considered, and considered quickly.
A place that has a ton of now-empty casino-hotels available due to the nationwide closure of casinos might be the obvious solution that pops into your head right away. Namely: Las Vegas.
But while it seems to make sense at first thought, there are a lot of reasons that would make Las Vegas Strip hotels an overflow option for COVID-19 patients an unlikely bet.
The USA TODAY NETWORK contacted some of the Strip’s casino-hotel giants and hospitality experts to get their insight into why this type of request wouldn’t work. Let’s dig a little deeper to see what challenging issues that particular scenario might bring up.
Not Enough Staff Available For Medical Manpower Needed
The space on the Las Vegas Strip is far from the issue. In fact, there are currently over 65,000 rooms that are going unused by the day due to the casino closures that is set to last April 30.
But more space doesn’t mean there is an equivalent of trained staff on hand that could provide the type of specific support and care needed.
“Beyond a skeleton security team and a few specialists required by gaming regulations, we do not have staff on-site who could provide the services and support necessary to make this a viable option,” said Caesars Entertainment spokesman Richard Broome.
The Request Has Yet To Be Made
According to National Resort Association President, Virginia Valentine, the industry has responded to “multiple community requests,” but when it comes to question of whether or not they’d be able to secure beds for COVID-19 overflow patients, they have “not been approached on this matter.”
Broome, spokesman for Caesars, says, “We have not been asked.”
MGM Resorts International has yet to respond to inquiries of whether or not government officials made the request for beds or not. Las Vegas Sands also declined to comment.
Wynn Resorts, on the other hand, says that their company has been in consistent contact with the state’s COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force, according to company spokesperson Michael Weaver.
Weaver, however, did not say whether they’ve been asked about offering up hotel beds.
According to SNHD spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore, she said that “The Health District did not reach out to resorts on the Strip.”
The main role that resorts have been playing during this pandemic is donating medical supplies, such as Las Vegas Sands’ generous donation of two million pieces of personal protective equipment to Nevada and New York, and helping out local communities in terms of providing food to local food banks and helping support casino staff with financial aid, like MGM Resorts is doing.
‘Adapting Wouldn’t Be Easy’
With casinos being forced to shutter their doors, it’s caused many of them to shave down their staff with furloughs and layoffs done to combat the economic downfall caused by the closures.
Reduced staff levels would make the transition of turning Strip hotels into a makeshift hospital-type space for COVID-19 patients a difficult task, according to Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine.
“Given the immense size and scale of resort properties and the many factors that go into their operations, it would be difficult to adapt resort hotel rooms with limited operational levels,” she said in an email.
Mehmet Erdem, associate professor at UNLV’s Hospitality College, echoed Valentine’s reasoning. Erdem says that the challenges of turning these megaresorts into surge centers goes beyond just operational hurdles.
“Let’s say you did sanitize, many surfaces may have the virus,” says Erdem. “Who wants to take the liability of putting someone in a hotel room and they get infected from the previous patients?”
The Risk of Contagion Brings Up Liability Issues
As pointed out by Erdem, the risk of bringing in overflow COVID-19 patients brings up the issue of staff, especially those who are untrained to medically handle patients of that nature, catching the virus and it spreading.
The casinos wouldn’t be sure how liability in that sense would fall on them, or if they’re even equipped to handle it.
Some Resorts Are Opening Up Their Doors For Frontline Workers
While the questions of using resorts to house overflow COVID-19 patients seems out of the questions, many hotel properties are gladly opening up their doors for the country’s frontline workers, including first responders and medical personnel.
Timeshare company Diamond Resorts recently announced that its properties worldwide are offering complimentary suites to first responders.
A new program “Hospitality for Hope” which is designed to set up healthcare and emergency workers with hotel properties for safe housing amid the coronavirus pandemic recently had over 15,000 hotels sign up to participate.
Properties are offering up their hotel rooms to serve as a space for those frontline workers who are afraid of going home and possibly contaminating their families with the virus, should they have it.
While the possibility of utilizing Strip hotels as overflow locations seems out of the questions, it may be too premature to say whether or not that need will arise with the virus continuing to spread.
We can only hope that for states like New York and Colorado, who have overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare facilities, that they will be able to find the proper space to house COVID-19 patients where they can get the care they need.
We will continue to monitor the coronavirus crisis in Nevada and keep you updated with any new movements in the situation. Stay home and stay safe, Nevada.