Colorado Wants FEMA To Pay The Full $71 Million Cost Of The State’s Field Hospitals

Jared Polis Colorado Convention Center COVIS-19 Pop Up Treatment
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A work crew at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center on Friday, April 10, 2020, where the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 2,000-bed pop-up treatment facility to accommodate an expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

The temporary field hospitals under construction in Denver and Loveland will cost an estimated $71 million, according to the office of Gov. Jared Polis.

The state of Colorado is currently responsible for a quarter of that sum — about $18 million — but Polis and other governors are asking the federal government to cover the full cost instead.

Meanwhile, Colorado has secured leases for three additional smaller facilities.

The field facilities are meant to host thousands of temporary hospital beds and absorb overflow COVID-19 patients if the hospitals reach capacity. They’re being built at a remarkable speed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers overseeing hundreds of employees from private contractors.

The field hospital at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver is expected to fit roughly 2,000 beds. Crews are building rooms from steel frames and drywall in the center’s convention halls, with the first section expected to open April 18. Another facility will host 1,060 beds at The Ranch complex in Loveland.

The costs of the facilities are split between the states and the federal government under the federal Stafford Act. But Polis and other members of the National Governors Association think that's an unfair expectation during an unprecedented outbreak.

"We believe that the unprecedented size, scale and duration of the COVID-19 impacts far exceed the response capabilities of the states and territories and warrants the full force and support of the federal government. Waiving the cost-share requirements will ensure that states and territories are able to adequately and rapidly respond to and support the American people," read a letter from the NGA to President Donald Trump.

Polis has described the facilities as preparation for a worst-case scenario. They’ll hopefully see only dozens or hundreds of patients, he said. The Denver and Loveland facilities are for “Tier 3” patients who don’t need the full medical care of a hospital.

The state also announced leases on the following additional sites:

  • St. Anthony North in Westminster
  • St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo
  • Western Slope Memory Care in Grand Junction

Those field facilities are much smaller, holding only 258 beds in total. They are expected to open on May 8. But because they are already medical facilities, they will host “Tier 2.5” patients who need somewhat more intensive care.