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A hotel in Florissant is being prepared as the first alternative care site for COVID-19 patients, but the leaders behind such sites where hospitals could send patients during the pandemic said using hotels is a model the rest of Missouri could follow, if needed.

Alternative care sites offer space where patients could be cared for if hospitals reach and exceed their capacities during the pandemic.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 3,327 reported COVID-19 cases in Missouri, with 58 deaths, according to the state's Department of Health and Senior Services.

Todd Richardson — who is director of MO HealthNet and is coordinating efforts to increase the capacity of the state's health care system during the pandemic — said focusing on hotels instead of large arenas "will allow the state to move more quickly, it is a model that can be scaled as need arises, and it is a model that can be used to support care delivery across our state."

Gov. Mike Parson had previously identified several large sports and multi-purpose arenas in the state's major cities as sites being considered for alternate care.

Richardson expected the first site at the Florissant hotel to be up and running in "a little less than a week."

Adjutant Gen. Levon Cumpton, of the Missouri National Guard, said that meant patients could be accepted at the site as early as next week, with more than 100 beds available.

Cumpton said construction at the site would start this weekend.

"Other facilities will be converted in St. Louis, and in other communities across the state, if the situation warrants," he added.

He said the National Guard would also help staff the Florissant facility.

Parson said, "Right now, Missouri is in a good place" when it comes to hospital beds and equipment.

With 132 of 154 hospitals reporting, the Missouri Hospital Association shared Wednesday the state has 721 intensive care beds available, out of 2,129. Among 118 hospitals, 1,208 ventilators were available, out of 1,987.

Though no data was available on discharges, 519 people confirmed to have COVID-19 had been admitted to Missouri hospitals.

Sandra Karsten, director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said personal protective equipment had begun to be distributed to law enforcement and fire services.

Some delays had been experienced with shipments from China, Karsten said, adding the state was working with the federal government to get shipments through customs.

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