Across the United States, empty facilities are being converted into much-needed hospitals for patients suffering from the coronavirus. In Reno, Nev., members of Local 401 performed that critical work in an especially unique place – a parking garage.
“It’s like a feat of human ingenuity and effort,” said Reno City Council Vice Mayor Devon Reese in a Facebook video where he toured the area. “When we put our minds together as a community … we can do anything.”
The Mill Street parking garage, part of the Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, is now home to 1,400 beds on two floors that will serve overflow patients suffering from COVID-19. The location allows caregivers to remain on campus and still have accessibility to existing hospital infrastructure such as labs, pharmacy, imaging, food services and other critical services, reported the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
About 20 members worked on the project in two shifts, which began in early April, said Local 401 Business Manager Jacob Haas. It finished just 10 days later, reported the Reno Gazette Journal, and increased Renown’s ability to handle patient care by about 173%.
“It was basically a 24-hour project,” Haas said, adding that the work isn’t entirely unlike what members would do for a tradeshow or other temporary structure.
Members were given all necessary personal protective equipment, including masks purchased by the local, and got daily temperature checks, Haas said. They also practiced social distancing as much as possible and increased hand washing.
“Our members are being really good and really safe throughout all this,” Haas said.
Local 401 also had members working on conversion of a GM plant for ventilator production. The project included travelers from Detroit Local 58, all working 70-hour weeks over two shifts. Production began in early April and finished in early May. The IBEW members involved even received a letter of praise from GM, noting the members’ work ethic and attention to detail and their crucial work in helping to fight COVID-19.