What with the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continuing to grow, medical professionals have voiced concerns that the nation could soon run out of professionally made hospital beds. And there are questions on how to quarantine patients so they don’t infect others too.
Brandon Hardin, a research economist with the National Association of Realtors, has suggested that empty shopping malls could be used to house the sick instead.
“Vacant retail malls are suited to provide this demand for a larger space in an urbanized area to serve as a temporary hospital or health care armory,” Hardin wrote in a blog post. “Shopping centers, both fully vacant and partially vacant, have close proximity to people, and their large [square] footage can handle large cases as mobile hospital units, emergency mask production, storage of basic goods, etc.”
Some of the hardest-hit U.S. states have already called for more space. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the state needs an additional 50,000 hospital beds, while California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked for a naval hospital with an extra 1,000 beds.
It makes sense to use vacant shopping malls as the U.S. has a generous amount of them. According to Coresight Research, 9,350 stores closed in the U.S. last year alone. Numerous anchor stores that have vacated U.S. malls left behind large empty spaces that often remain that way for long periods of time before a new tenant can be found.
“These vacant malls can, in the meantime, be used as health care armories,” Hardin said.
He explained that the malls offer the kind of physical infrastructure that’s needed to win the battle against the coronavirus outbreak, and also future epidemics and pandemics.
“These vacant malls can be temporarily utilized as health care emergency armories, and even permanently become health care hospices, medical facilities, science centers, or health facilities to serve the needs of aging baby boomers,” Hardin wrote.