An inside look at what’s left of the emergency hospital at Colorado Convention Center


DENVER (KDVR) – In just two weeks, construction crews have removed most of the emergency hospital that took more than a month to build inside the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Gov. Jared Polis decommissioned the alternative care site in January.

“We had said from the beginning, success of an alternate care site is to not have to use an alternate care site,” said Mike Willis, the director of Emergency Management for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The state transformed the Convention Center and other sites into emergency hospitals in the spring, just in case COVID-19 and other patients overwhelmed traditional hospitals. The Convention Center had 80 beds and if needed, could accommodate about 2,000 patients.

The state spent about $40 million to lease the space and convert it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced it will reimburse the state the entire cost.

Still, many have wondered if the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

“I would say that’s always the conundrum of preparedness, right?” Willis said. “Looking at it today, saying you never used it, you could make that argument. But I would rather live with that…than live with the argument of: you really needed it and didn’t have it and people died.”

Although the state never used any of its emergency hospitals, it came very close when COVID-19 cases spiked in the fall.

“I remember looking at the data one evening, and I said, ‘OK, we should plan to open it in the morning,'” Willis recalled. “And in the morning we said, ‘OK, we should look at it that evening.’ That’s how close we got.”

“We’ve seen other states where it does not work out that way and here in Colorado we did a phenomenal job with communication and coordination,” said Mark Winters, who’s part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s health care facilities team.

Now, patients with COVID-19 are using just about five percent of Colorado’s hospital beds. These are the lowest numbers the state has seen since the end of October.

“Everything looks to be going in the right direction right now,” said Dr. David Wyles, chief of Infectious Diseases at Denver Health. “I certainly don’t think there’s any immediate need for that resource.”

The state will officially end its lease with the Convention Center on March 25.

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