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Hotels and cruise ships offer to serve as hospitals. Is it a good idea?

Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

At the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel in Pomona, Calif., the gym and the pool are closed, the breakfast buffet has been shut down and the 244-room facility is no longer accepting reservations.

Instead, the hotel on the grounds of the Fairplex is playing a role in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak by housing more than 30 medical professionals and first responders who have been exposed to the virus or have tested positive and have nowhere else to self-quarantine.

"So far, it's worked well," said Miguel Santana, chief executive of the Fairplex, the 487-acre facility that includes the hotel and annually hosts the Los Angeles County Fair and other events.

Since the pandemic all but shut down the nation's travel and tourism industries, some hotels and cruise lines have offered their empty rooms to take pressure away from hospitals that have been inundated with people suffering from COVID-19.

Several government agencies in the U.S. and abroad have turned to hotels to house the sick and front-line warriors in the crisis. As for cruise ships -- not so much.

Healthcare experts and engineers say they aren't surprised that government agencies are reluctant to transform cruise ships into floating hospitals.

 

Andrea Hricko, professor emerita at USC's Keck School of Medicine, said the close quarters and the history of outbreaks on cruise ships makes medical use "a terrible idea."

"It would add to our public health crisis to operate cruise ships as hospitals," she said.

Neither hotels nor cruise ships would be ideal to treat critically ill COVID-'19 patients, but hotels could house "low acuity care" patients because conference centers and other facilities can hold necessary medical equipment, Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven, said in an email.

"A cruise ship is no place for a critically ill person, and a hotel cannot be an ICU," she said.

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