US cities race to reopen shuttered hospitals as COVID-19 spreads

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread widely in the U.S., many cities have far too few hospital beds to treat a surge of COVID-19 patients. To expand capacity, state and local governments across the nation are rushing to reopen hospitals that were recently shut down. 


In California, one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19, state leaders and local governments are looking to reopen several shuttered hospitals. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced March 21 that the state is using $30 million in emergency funding to lease two hospitals, one of which is currently shut down, to add 486 beds for COVID-19 patients. The state will lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City, which is already operational, and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, which closed in January. 

The governor also hopes to reopen California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco to add an additional 150 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The state is in talks with Sacramento-based Sutter Health about reopening the facility. 

Community Hospital of Long Beach closed two years ago and is preparing to reopen, according to Los Angeles TV station Fox 11. The hospital has 158 beds. In San Clemente, a 73-bed hospital may reopen, according to CBS Los Angeles


With 1,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26, Illinois is the state with the seventh most confirmed cases in the U.S. 

In Blue Island, Ill., a south suburb of Chicago, a hospital that closed in September will be reopened and used for quarantining people who have tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19. The hospital, formerly known as MetroSouth Medical Center, could be ready to accept patients by March 28, according to the Chicago Tribune


As of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26, Ohio had 704 confirmed COVID-19 cases. If the number of cases continues to increase, local leaders want to ensure there are enough hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. 

Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies and others are calling on state and local officials to reopen East Ohio Regional Hospital, which closed in September. 

"We're making phone calls every day trying to get our hospital reopened," Mr. Davies told the Herald-Star. "We want everybody to know and all the entities to know that we are available to do anything the city can do to make it become a reality. If it took a short-term opening right now, as a stepping-stone, we would take that. We want our hospital open."


Pennsylvania had 1,284 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26. Though state and city leaders are trying to add more hospital beds, their attempts to reopen Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia have not been successful. 

Philadelphia leaders identified Hahnemann, which closed last year, as a possible site to quarantine patients who have tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19. However, they have not reached a deal with the hospital's owner to reopen the facility. 

Under the most-recent proposal from the hospital's owner, the city would have to pay $31,500 daily to use Hahnemann's 450 rooms, which the city cannot afford, according to NBC 10.  

"Our team immediately responded to the city's interest in ... Hahnemann and has been engaged in discussions with them for several days," the hospital's owner Joel Freedman said in a March 24 release. "Further, we have continually asked the city to make us an offer for the facility. We asked the city whether they desired to buy or lease the hospital, and after days of waiting for a reply, we took the initiative and submitted a term sheet. We offered to lease the facility to the city for six months or a year, whatever they think is necessary. We need the city to work with us for everyone to be successful."


As of Thursday morning, Washington had the fourth most COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The state had 2,600 confirmed cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT. 

State officials are considering several proposals to expand hospital bed capacity, including the option of leasing or purchasing Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima, which closed in January. 

In a letter to state Secretary of Health John Wiesman, Astria Health CEO John Gallagher said the hospital is equipped with 80 beds and could house up to 118 people in private quarters, according to the Yakima Herald.

Editor's note: This article was update at 11:20 a.m. CDT March 26 to include the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington. 

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