L.A. Mayor Says Hollywood Soundstages May Be Utilized If Virus Cases Surge

Eric Garcetti says the L.A. Convention Center, hotels, motels, empty sports venues and soundstages are being considered as venues to house hospital beds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Traffic near Staples Center is light after the new restrictions went into effect at midnight as the coronavirus pandemic spreads on March 20, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says local officials are open to using venues such as sports arenas and Hollywood soundstages should the city need to secure space for hospital beds or quarantine units in the event of an ongoing surge in coronavirus patients.

“Any place is on the table,” Garcetti said during a press briefing late Wednesday afternoon in response to a question from Fox 11 News reporter Ed Laskos about the possibility of using empty sports facilities. “If you go to a place like Staples Center, it’s a small place compared to the [L.A. Convention Center] or other things, but absolutely. Whether it's the hotels and motels — who need our help badly right now — and, at the beginning, some were saying, ‘Well, we don’t know if we want to take patients,’ many of them now have said, ‘Absolutely, we would take patients, people who need isolation and quarantine.'”

As the coronavirus crisis has spread across the globe, it’s placed an unprecedented strain on hospitals and medical resources such as ventilators, masks, gowns and other protective equipment. While some who are infected with COVID-19 illness exhibit only mild symptoms, others require hospitalization and/or intensive care treatment. As of Wednesday, in L.A. County 799 individuals have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and of those, 160 people have been hospitalized at some point. There have been 13 deaths.

L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that while Los Angeles has yet to see a surge in patients similar to the situation in other cities, specifically New York, it would be “foolish” to not prepare and that includes securing space for hospital beds and quarantine and isolation locations. During Wednesday's press briefing, Dr. Christina Ghaly, Director of L.A. County's Health Services, offered the latest bed counts at hospitals across the county and there's still availability. In 84 acute care hospitals across the county, there are 23,000 hospital beds including 2,200 ICU beds. As of Wednesday, there were 1,500 open beds including 220 open ICU beds. 

Garcetti said they are looking at the L.A. Convention Center together with county public health leaders, similar to what’s been done in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that initiative earlier this week, a move that will create a 1,000-bed temporary hospital as the number of cases in the state accounts for a third nationwide. Per the New York Times, more than 3,922 patients have been hospitalized in the city and the number is growing every day.

The L.A. Convention Center is a massive space that hosts 350 events annually and more than 2 million visitors thanks to a 720,000-square-foot exhibit hall space and 147,000-square-foot meeting room space. Outside of that, Garcetti added that city leaders are looking at “whatever spaces and places” they can secure, including empty theaters and even Hollywood soundstages. He confirmed that “some folks from studios have reached out” about that prospect, which could be ideal in that “soundstages have their own ventilation” and the buildings are industrial enough that “they could be [used to hang] medical equipment.”

It’s unclear if the contacts that reached out to the Mayor’s office are from Hollywood’s major studios. All of the majors studios, including Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., NBCUniversal Pictures, Sony and Paramount Pictures, maintain a network of soundstages on respective lots. City-wide, however, there are dozens of independent studio lots that house soundstages including popular destinations like Sunset Gower Studios, The Lot, Quixote Studios, Siren Studios and many others.

All studios are currently quiet as the productions across the city and state have been halted under Mayor Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom's work-from-home orders and the shuttering of nonessential businesses. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Mayor Garcetti's office for clarification on the soundstage locations and to see if conversations are ongoing.