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Milwaukee officials seek to build COVID-19 care facility on State Fair Park grounds

Milwaukee-area officials on Thursday asked the Army Corps of Engineers to build a center at Wisconsin State Fair Park to treat COVID-19 patients.

The so-called Alternative Care Facility would take in COIVD-19 patients without acute symptoms to avoid overwhelming hospitals ahead of a predicted surge in the virus. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, West Allis Mayor Dan Devine and other local officials sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers asking for support for the plans from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

If the project is approved, the Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the construction work and hire local contractors to help. The Corps typically needs a week or two to build such a center, according to a news release. The state and the federal government are expected to help pay for the project. It’s unclear when construction will begin, or how many beds the center will have, according to a news release.

Similar projects have taken place already elsewhere. In Chicago, the Corps is converting the McCormick Place convention center, the largest convention center in the U.S., into a coronavirus care center. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the event space will have 500 beds ready by April 5 and ultimately have 3,000 beds.

In Milwaukee, local officials said they are taking a necessary precaution.

“Preparing for an escalation of COVID-19 cases is critical as we take every possible measure to minimize the impact on our community,” Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement. “We make this urgent request of our State and Federal partners together as one County to support our local healthcare delivery systems in response to this pandemic.”

The Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center chose the state fair park grounds after considering several other sites. The park grounds, in West Allis, are well-suited for the project because they already have various large venues, parking and a “natural perimeter.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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