Feds looking to lease warehouses for coronavirus triage, testing centers

President Trump said this week that US is considering “taking over” empty buildings, as those who tested positive for the virus continued to grow

President Donald Trump (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The federal government is reaching out to commercial property owners and brokers to lease empty warehouse space for temporary triage centers, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide continues to grow.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 15,000 people had tested positive for the virus in the U.S., with more cases expected as the number of testing sites increases.

President Trump, in a press conference earlier this week, said the government is considering taking over empty buildings to build out temporary medical facilities in states like New York, where Navy ship USNS Comfort was being deployed to help with hospital overflow.

In Miami, a government agency reached out to commercial broker George Pino, president of State Street Realty, seeking large empty industrial warehouses and office buildings to build out triage and testing centers. The government is looking for short-term leases in cities where there are higher concentrations of coronavirus patients, Pino said.

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In South Florida, it’s not unusual for the government, in many cases the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to temporarily lease warehouses to house supplies following a hurricane.

At the Monday press conference, Trump said the government is looking into the Army Corps of Engineers building temporary facilities to house patients, but added it was not there yet. He said the government was “taking over buildings that aren’t used.”

Earlier this week, Carnival Corporation offered governments its cruise ships to use as temporary hospitals for patients who do not have the virus, the Miami Herald reported. Trump said he planned to talk over the offer with governors from New York and California.

On Thursday, California ordered its 40 million residents to stay at home and on Friday, New York laid out something close to shelter-in-place rules, although the phrase was not used. The same day, Illinois issued its own shelter-in-place order.