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Rows and rows of cots and medical supplies have filled the Mountain America Expo Center, a place that, in years past, have hosted more light-hearted events, such as off-road expos and travel shows.
But as coronavirus continues to spread throughout Utah, the event center is serving a different purpose. It is now an “alternative hospital" that can be used to treat patients if traditional hospitals become overcrowded with COVID-19 patients.
The alternate center won’t treat people who have the virus, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson said last week, instead it will serve as a back-up in case others need medical attention — or if there are mass injuries or fatalities.
"The COVID-19 patients would remain in our main hospitals where proper care and attention can [be given] to them," he said, "especially knowing how vulnerable people are with the spread of this particular virus."
There are 250 beds set up at the expo center, Anderson said, and it has the capacity to fit another 750, if needed.
"We hope that we will never have to use our alternative care sites," he said.
Anderson said state officials are asking that Utahns who are trained medical professionals and could help in the overflow facility if the need arises to go to the state’s website and let officials know about what training they have and when they could help.
It doesn’t look like the state would use this center in the short term. As of Monday, Utah had 1,675 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 138 hospitalizations since the outbreak began.