To free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, Chicago is renting scores of hotel rooms. They'll be occupied by people with mild cases of the disease, think they were exposed to it, or are waiting for coronavirus test results, the Chicago Tribune reports. The city expects to have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday in five hotels and more than 2,000 rooms by the end of the week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday. "People in Chicago are stepping up and rising tall in this moment," the mayor said. Hotel staffing will be minimal, and employees will have no contact with quarantined patients; those floors will be staffed by employees of the city health department. It's the first such plan in the nation, city officials said. Lightfoot said the city will pay a competitive rate of about $175 a night, including three meals, which could total $1 million per hotel over a month. The city hopes to secure federal reimbursement.
The initiative also will aid an industry hit hard by the pandemic and help keep people employed; several large hotels in the city have shut down. Almost 15,000 hotel rooms have been counted statewide that can be used similarly, the head of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association said, per Crain's. The program could be expanded. "We want to be helpful where we can," Michael Jacobson said, "whether that’s with the homeless or domestic violence shelters and shelters that house human trafficking victims that are being shut down." Chicago needs another 2,600 beds to help protect the homeless during the pandemic, an advocate said. That number will rise if low-risk prisoners are released from jails. (Read more coronavirus stories.)