Event Venues Are Caring for the Ill and Helping the Helpers

Author: Convene Editors       

covid-19 reaction

Drivers line up at the North-South Building of the Orange County Convention Center to be tested for COVID-19. Many centers, hotels, and other events venues are doing their part to help others during the pandemic. (Courtesy OCCC)

When the Army Corps of Engineers knocked, Javits Center President and CEO Alan Steel was ready. “Basically, when I first met with the Army Corps of Engineers, I said to them, ‘We do this every day. We’re in the event business. At Javits, we do 175 events every year, so you’re just really another event for us,’” Steel recently told Convene. The can-do attitude was routine. The event wasn’t: The Army was going to transform the convention center into a temporary hospital to help care for the ill during the COVID-19 outbreak.

All that was necessary, Steel said, was for the Army to tell him what it needed. Today, the 1,000-bed Jacob K. Javits Convention Center field hospital is open and serving lower-severity COVID-19 cases, according to media reports.

With traditional events paused during the crisis, convention centers and other event venues from New York to Vancouver to Berlin are providing relief — or standing by to provide relief — for overburdened hospitals. Others are sheltering the homeless. And it’s not just conventions centers. Hotels are offering shelter to health-care and other front-line workers.

Here are some of the ways the industry is stepping up to help in the fight and care for those caring for the rest of us:

  • Raleigh Convention & Performing Arts Complex, along with the Raleigh-based Centerplate team, donated 1,000 meals in mid-May to local first responders and hospitals. Five-hundred of those meals were available for first responders to retrieve via curbside pickup, while 100 meals went to WakeMed Health & Hospitals and 400 meals went to South Wilmington Street Center, a facility providing emergency housing to those experiencing homelessness.
  • Parking locations at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando are being used for temporary drive-through COVID-19 testing. More than 3,780 tests have been administered at the site since it opened March 25, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference on April 8, according to local media.
  • Marriott will provide $10 million worth of hotel stays for health-care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight in the United States through its Rooms for Responders initiatives. Free rooms are to be available in such heavily impacted areas as New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson said in an April 10 email.
  • Vancouver Convention Centre, in cooperation with Vancouver Coastal Health and other partners, is preparing its West building to be used as an alternative care site, if needed.
  • Detroit’s TCF Center was transformed in nine days to TCF Regional Care Center and patients began arriving on April 10, according to WDIV. (Watch the video below.)
  • In Chicago, work is going on around the clock to turn McCormick Place into an alternate care facility to provide hospital space if beds become scarce, officials say. The facility, due to open at the end of April, is to eventually accommodate about 3,000 people.
  • In Madrid, a field hospital has been set up at IFEMA conference center, with 1,300 hospital beds, according to media reports, which also said that since opening on March 23, the facility has admitted 939 patients.
  • In London, the ExCel conference center is to become Britain’s first coronavirus field hospital, with space for up to 4,000, according to The Guardian. The temporary hospital is to be named Nightingale.
  • In Calgary, the Telus Convention Centre will serve as a temporary shelter for up to 300 homeless individuals during the COVID-19 crisis, the CBC reported.
  • The Baltimore Convention Center (right) and the city-owned Hilton hotel are converting space to provide at least 250 beds, in a joint partnership between the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Some 250 intensive care stations have been established at the Milano Convention Centre, (MiCo), in Milan, Italy, in a project coordinated by the regional government.
  • The Philippine government is converting three large venues in Manila, including the Philippine International Convention Center, into quarantine centers to isolate confirmed, potential, and suspected cases of COVID-19, CNN reported.
  • The Santa Clara Convention Center has become a field respite center serving less-acute COVID-19 patients, welcoming its first patients the first week of April, KRON4 reported.
  • Live event, entertainment, and scenic production company Production Resource Group is helping patients and health-care workers in Berlin and New York by crafting face shields and equipping a temporary hospital in Hall 26 at the Berlin Expo Center.
  • The Atlantic City Convention Center has been converted into a field hospital, with 250 beds initially set up, nj.com reported, adding that more beds can be added if needed.
  • The American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Hospitality for Hope initiative has more than 15,000 hotels participating to provide temporary housing for emergency and other health-care workers.
  • Boston has located its first field hospital at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The 1,000-bed facility, named Boston Hope, has 500 beds for the city’s homeless and 500 for patients recovering from COVID-19, according to WCVB.
  • New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is being turned into a 1,000-bed facility to care for overflow of patients from city hospitals, with local media reporting that the first patients have begun arriving.
  • Singapore Expo, set up as a community isolation facility, began receiving patients who are recovering from COVID-19 or have mild symptoms on April 10, Straits Times reported.

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What Events Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19

PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the pandemic and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared now and in the future.

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