Local leaders work to turn hotels into possible makeshift hospitals as coronavirus cases rise

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A county commissioner and a city councilman are working with the private sector to possibly turn hotels into hospitals just in case Memphis ever gets to the point of needing extra space while battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Startling images from New York show hospitals overrun with patients as the coronavirus rapidly spreads. 

Thankfully here in the Mid-South, that is not the case, but as the number of cases in Shelby County ticks up to more than 400 with three deaths, Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. said there must be a plan for the worst. 

“We might be in the eye of the storm right now, and we might see a second round of this pandemic, so instead of waiting for the second round to happen and react, we want to be proactive,” Ford Jr. said.

Along with his father, city councilman Edmund Ford, Sr., the pair sent out a notice saying in the recent COVID-19 report, there are 595 hospital beds available with a task force looking at other options if needed down the road.

A map obtained by WREG details positive COVID-19 cases. Many are in East Memphis, followed by areas in North and South Memphis.

Ford Jr. said it is important to recognize areas historically underserved, as well.

“So that individuals regardless of their zip code, their demographic can have access to the resources that are needed,” he said.

He highlighted in his letter that three lodging spots have already offered room at their location in case medical overflow space is needed. Those include the Days Inn at Graceland in Whitehaven, Jackson Heights Inn and Suites in Raleigh and the Econo Lodge in Lakeland. 

“Overall, it’s going to take all of us collectively to tackle this pandemic,” Ford Jr. said.

Ford Jr. said partnerships like this are similar to recent work put forth by Commissioner Tami Sawyer, where the county commission agreed to pay $50,000 to Old Dominic Distillery to help cover costs of making thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer

He’s now asking  for any other lodging owners in the Mid-South to reach out if they want to help, too.

“Please contact us because there are a couple other areas I would like to see us have those beds available,” Ford Jr. said.

He’s also asking anyone who can help with personal protective equipment to come forward.

WREG reached out to the City of Memphis for any comment on these possible backup plans, but so far we have not heard back.

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