Milwaukee-area officials say they are moving forward with construction of a COIVD-19 overflow center at State Fair Park in West Allis, but couldn’t provide details about the project Wednesday.
Officials last week sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers asking for support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to build a facility at the state fair park grounds that could accept coronavirus patients. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would lead the project and hire local contractors to build it.
In a news conference Wednesday, Milwaukee-area officials said discussions with state and hospital officials about the facility are ongoing and “very fluid.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said during the news conference that officials are still unsure when construction could begin on the facility or when it would need to open.
The so-called Alternative Care Facility would treat COVID-19 patients without acute symptoms to avoid overwhelming hospitals as the number of cases continues to grow. The Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center chose the state fair park grounds for the facility after touring a number of other sites in the Milwaukee area. The state fair park grounds have a “natural perimeter,” various large venues and other amenities that make it a good candidate for the facility, officials said last week.
The Corps typically needs a week or two to build such a center, although it’s still unclear how many beds the facility would need. The state and the federal government are expected to pay for the project.
In Chicago, the Corps is working to convert McCormick Place convention center — the largest in the U.S. — into a similar COVID-19 care center that would ultimately have 3,000 beds.