Las Vegas Casinos, Hotels Possible Spaces to House COVID-19 Patients

Las Vegas has about 150,000 hotel rooms and other spacious properties that could temporarily hold, if needed, the escalating number of people afflicted with coronavirus, experts told But putting patients, even those with less-severe cases, in such locations has some drawbacks.

UNLV Professor Chris Cochran sees benefits and drawbacks to housing people in Las Vegas casino hotels, given the needs arising from the coronavirus outbreak. (Image: UNLV)

Health officials predict many US hospitals soon will be overrun with patients. Well before the outbreak, in total, Nevada had 6,304 hospital beds in 2017. Nevada’s 2.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people is lower than the national average of 2.4, according to the Nevada Current.

This week, hotels and casinos have been shuttered in Nevada because of the COVID-19 outbreak. So, space is obtainable for at least a month.

Las Vegas has a huge supply of hotel rooms that could be suitable for either quarantine or treatment,” Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow in Gaming Law at UNLV Boyd School of Law, told

“The casino space is probably less suitable for this purpose than the convention space we have available, which is set up for power and other utilities and quick conversion,” Cabot explained. “A major convention can be set up and torn down in days. This expertise may be particularly helpful.”

He points out, too, a large portion of Las Vegas’s convention facilities are publicly owned, so “they can be deployed quickly.”

For instance, the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is next to the Strip. It has approximately 3.2 million square feet with exhibit space of 2 million square feet and meeting space of nearly 250,000 square feet.

Cabot explains repurposing of space would reduce the stress on hospitals and their employees. They then could concentrate on critical care patients.

In recent days, many hotel and casino workers have seen layoffs or furloughs. “The plan … could employ many laid off hotel workers who can provide services like food preparation, laundry, and back of house services,” Cabot said.

“Everyone will need to step up where they can,” Cabot advised. “I do not anticipate much resistance from most major casino resort companies if it comes to this.”

Still, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows gambling trends, told, “I would imagine that the casino/hotel operators would not like their properties associated with the virus.

“While it would be a nice public gesture, future patrons would like to know the hotel is completely virus free,” McGowan adds. But if the government made the request, the hotels and casinos may find they have little choice.

He points out that casinos and hotels are licensed by the government. “So, in times of need, the government might call on them to provide space,” McGowan said. “Besides a moral good, it might be a legal necessity.”

“If the industry expects government to bail them out, then perhaps government can expect them to cooperate in stemming the tide of the coronavirus,” McGowan added.

Design of Hotel Floors Different from Hospital Floors

When asked about the option, Chris Cochran, who is chair of the Department of Health Care Administration and Policy at UNLV’s School of Public Health, noted the design of some of the bigger Las Vegas hotel properties. It could limit retrofitting options.

“Hospitals rely on layouts that place nursing stations in fairly close proximity to patient rooms,” Cochran said. “In some cases, you may see several corridors of patient beds leading to a centralized nursing station.”

“Many hotels have long corridors with no central location for housing nurses, patients, tech specialists, etc. It might be possible to accommodate this by placing nursing and staff areas in guest rooms in the central corridor, but it will likely take more staff to monitor,” Cochran added.

Staff must respond when patient monitoring equipment indicates a response. Patients may also call for assistance.

Hotel beds are different from hospital beds, too. Patients may need their legs, head, or chest elevated, Cochran said.

“Propping them up with pillows might not be enough. Unless patients can ambulate without much assistance — in which case providing home care might be more useful — special equipment needs must be considered,” Cochran said.

Hotels also typically have carpets on the floors. Many hospitals prefer bare floors to reduce risk of microbes, which are more likely to fester in carpets than hard flooring, Cochran said.

Thus, public areas and open spacing may be better suited for temporary M.A.S.H.-style hospital care,” Cochran advised. “Beds can be appropriately distanced to avoid cross-contamination, and bed screens can provide some privacy. Not as good from the comfort perspective as hotel rooms, but more easily retrofitted for equipment and beds.”

He speculated whether hotels could be more appropriate housing for individuals who became displaced because they lost their job and income and can no longer afford rent.

Also, in Akron, Ohio hotels are offering discounted rooms for medical workers during the pandemic, perhaps an example for Nevada.

Quarantined Patients Housed in California Hotel

Nationally, some patients with likely coronavirus are already residing in hotels. In California, passengers who had been quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship were reassigned to the 120-room Fairfield Hotel in San Carlos after the ship was docked in Oakland.

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that allows the state to commandeer any hotel or medical facility in California and use it to house anyone with coronavirus, according to the California Globe. Elsewhere, New York, Washington state, Texas, and other regions are also considering transforming entire hotels, or possibly renting select hotel rooms, to house patients.

This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is mobilizing the National Guard to identify various properties that could be converted into hospitals. Beyond hotels, they may include college dormitories or other buildings/spaces.

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