By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – The state’s alternative care sites in Denver and Northern Colorado will now open later than anticipated and with far fewer beds than initially planned, as hospital capacity continues to hold. The transformation at the Colorado Convention Center started when cases of COVID-19 started to build.

Colorado Convention Center Alternative Care Site coordinated by the State Emergency Operations Center to serve as a medical shelter if hospitals exceed their capacities to care for COVID-19 patients. (credit: Colorado Emergency Management)

Colorado Governor Jared Polis toured the facility while it was under construction in early April.

“I don’t think any of us should expect in Colorado that this facility will ever be full. I also don’t expect that it will be completely empty,” Polis said at the time.

Construction on that site and several others across the state were expected to be completed by the end of April in anticipation of a possible spike in cases in May. Kevin Klein, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said the facilities will now be operational by June, if the demand is there.

Colorado Convention Center (credit: Colorado Emergency Management)

“Our target is to have them ready to go if we need them, we don’t want to pay for staffing them if we are not going to use them, so we are going to be judicious about our use,” Klein said in a phone conference with reporters Thursday morning.

Klein said they are watching the data closely but have scaled back the size of those facilities. The Colorado Convention Center went from a 2,000 bed capacity to a 250 bed capacity. The Ranch Event Center in Loveland was originally expected to house up to 1,000 beds, but officials have decreased that number to 200.

“We will continue looking at what the data tells us and what our hospital capacity is and we’ll adjust until at some point in time what that capacity is and what we can sustain and get it back to being a convention center,” he said.

Based on the state’s current models, Klein said even if there are no patients through the summer the sites will remain open.

“We hope that safer-at-home, the businesses and mask project keep the curve flattened. That would be ideal,” Kline said. “But we want to keep the ability to turn them on in short order through what would be the next wave in the fall.”

Alternative care sites in Westminster and Pueblo have also been pushed back. In Grand Junction, plans to build an alternative care site have been put on hold.

Karen Morfitt

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