Toronto mayor says hotel rooms could be used to treat some COVID-19 patients

A healthcare worker shows a package with items used for testing people for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Mayor John Tory says that plans are being put into place to use empty hotel rooms to treat some people who may contract COVID-19 but don’t necessarily need to be hospitalized.

While just under 10 per cent of all 1,706 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario have required hospitalization to date, there are increasing concerns about the healthcare system’s capacity to handle a dramatic surge in serious cases, as has been seen in New York City where more than 1,200 people have died after contracting the virus.

In an interview with CP24 on Tuesday, Tory said that there are plans to utilize hotel rooms to handle some cases that require lower levels of medical care “if necessary.”

He said that officials have also investigated public buildings that could be turned into makeshift medical facilities as part of their contingency planning.

“What we have been focused on, at the stage, we are at now is looking at using hotels for people who may well have the virus but require a certain level of medical care that is much lower than a hospital,” he said.

On Monday U.S. officials unveiled a 1,000-bed temporary hospital that has been set up at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan amid a surging number of cases.

Tory said that in the event that Toronto experiences a dramatic rise in cases steps could be taken to secure public buildings for use as overflow hospital sites, including the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“I would just say that we have arrangements in place in Toronto depending on how the numbers go to look after people and make sure that they are looked after, admittedly not in a way that would be ideal in peace time but this is wartime,” he said.

“We are putting those plans in place so that they can be implemented if necessary.”