LOUISVILLE — Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky is making plans to convert hotels into hospitals to provide additional beds, if the spread of the deadly coronavirus warrants it.

In response to questions about the availability of hospital beds and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, Beshear said during his press conference Monday that “we have plans in place to convert hotels into hospitals, with additional beds, if needed” in the event the virus overwhelms hospital space.

The governor indicated that beds outside of licensed hospitals would be used for patients who are not critically ill and not in need of intensive care unit beds, which are crucial for treating some patients with severe respiratory symptoms associated with the virus.

“There are much fewer ICU needs right now than hospitalizations so ... we can have a clean, good place for folks with someone that can check on them,” Beshear said, adding later that there are site surveys of potential locations “going on right now.”

The governor said the state also has considered creating “pop-up facilities” in concert with the National Guard.

The idea of converting hotels to hospitals is gaining traction in several other cities, most prominently in New York City, where COVID-19 cases have spiked dramatically.

The Wall Street Journal reported that city leaders there are working with the hospitality industry to possibly convert entire hotels to hospitals for patients without COVID-19 to expand capacity at licensed medical facilities as the outbreak grows.

City leaders in New York have said their plans focus on patients who aren’t ill with the virus but still need care.

Hospitals in Louisville and elsewhere have been ordered to cancel elective surgeries in order to allow hospitals to “surge” their facilities for extra capacity. Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital erected a white triage tent outside the emergency room to sort out who may or may not be infected with the coronavirus.

The facility has 16 ICU beds, but the hospital staff has identified space in post-surgical rooms to provide an additional 83 beds if the need spikes, Charlotte Ipsan, chief administrative officer, said.

It wasn’t clear from Beshear’s remarks what hotel properties might be in play, but there’s no question the state would find ample space. Hotels, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, are getting hammered by travel bans imposed by President Donald Trump and governors around the country.

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