City moving to repurpose Duke Energy Convention Center with beds for hospital patients

Mayor Cranley, city leaders speak on COVID-19 in Cincinnati
Updated: Mar. 27, 2020 at 3:25 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The City of Cincinnati is working to repurpose the Duke Energy Convention Center to accommodate patients displaced from Tri-State hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor John Cranley made the announcement during a Friday afternoon media briefing.

Cranley cited Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton’s pronouncement earlier Friday that over the next several weeks the state will likely see a surge in COVID-19 cases, requiring triple the hospital beds currently available.

Related | Cincinnati Mayor Cranley says city expects people to ‘self-police’ | Tri-State cities snubbed by current federal aid bill, mayor says

“The City of Cincinnati will be a partner and will do everything in our power to assist,” the mayor said, “including aggressively moving forward to reposition the Duke Energy Convention Center into additional bed opportunities.”

Cranley clarified the convention center will not house patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 but will be purposed for “surplus use."

“The hospitals are in the best position to deal with people with the virus,” Cranley said.

He continued: “Obviously there will be other sick people, and they will need beds as well.”

Cranley remarked in recent days he’s met with the heads of Greater Cincinnati’s hospitals.

“They are working tirelessly to be able to meet the demand that is expected to come in over the next couple weeks,” he said, adding the hospitals are “clearly cooperating” with each other “for the greater public health of our entire region.”

According to Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore, Cincinnati now has 28 cases of COVID-19 after three additional people tested positive Friday.

The median age of the cases is reportedly 48.5 years.

The city faces a significant budget deficit as it battles the spread of COVID-19.

A city memo issued Friday states:

“The impact of COVID-19 has caused a major financial impact to our City with an unprecedented rise in unemployment and the closure of many businesses and services. As a result, there will be a massive General Fund shortfall for the remainder of this fiscal year as well as FY 2021. Preliminary estimates show a $60-$80 million dollar deficit for FY 2021.”

In his briefing, Mayor Cranley gave assurances that certain essential services -- police, fire, sanitation, water, public health -- will continue to be provided.

“We also realize that, unlike Washington D.C. and the capital, we cannot print money,” Cranley said. “So we have to take temporary emergency actions to preserve our ability to provide those basic services.”

Cranley said he would detail those actions Monday, but teased they would involve temporary cuts and layoffs, similar to what other Ohio cities have done.

“If you (...) look at what Dayton and Akron have done, it is similar in that they have asked people to do a temporary leave with the intention of bringing them back when the crisis is nearing its end,” he said.

The mayor touted the city’s recent work with shelter providers for people experiencing homelessness, including last week’s opening of the OTR Rec Center to house people experiencing homelessness who are symptomatic for COVID-19 and awaiting test results.

Another program the mayor highlighted Monday is Rapid Rehousing, managed by Strategies to End Homelessness. According to Cranley, the program is recruiting landlords to take in those experiencing homelessness.

“By participating in this program, landlords have access to tenants with rental subsidies, which means they can receive guaranteed rent while families and households in need receive the care and guidance of a case manager and stable housing,” the mayor said, adding the program is a “win-win.”

More information can be found here.

Just a week after city leaders, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the United Way launched the COVID-19 Response Fund, the fund has raised $4.1 million and distributed $1 million to 24 Tri-State organizations serving vulnerable people.

The organizations have provided housing, distributed meals and built pandemic child care facilities for the children of healthcare workers.

Cranley added donations are still badly needed and said a $250,000 one-for-one match has been provided.

To donate, text RAPID to 91999 or visit the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s website.

The city’s tax commissioner will extend the date to file annual net profit taxes until July 15, according to Cranley. Both penalty and interest will reportedly be waived during the extension.

The extension does not apply for remitting employers’ withholding tax, the mayor said.

More information can be found here.

Cincinnati’s parks remain open, but the mayor said complaints have come in about people using them without following safe social distancing.

In a recent incident at Eden Park, Cranley said police and parks officials had to step in to ensure people were dispersed and spread out.

Complaints have reportedly come in about people at Ault Park as well.

In response, access to cars has been partially removed from Eden Park, Cranley said, and similar action will be taken at Ault Park.

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