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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Temporary Hospital At Duke Energy Center Closed, But Not Forgotten

City of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Fire Department
In April, 150 hospital beds were set up at Duke Energy Convention Center to serve as a facility to treat COVID-19 patients.

An overflow hospital facility set up for Southwest Ohio is closing. The Duke Energy Convention Center was set up to handle COVID-19 patients, but now will be demobilized. UC Health says if needed, the site will be ready to reactivate within days.

It was first designed to hold as many as 500 patients. That number was reduced to 150, because the number of local cases didn't overwhelm hospital capacity.

UC Health's medical director of emergency management says it's fiscally responsible to shut it down. Dr. Dustin Calhoun says returning rented equipment now is the right thing to do.

"We were able to find there's literally no benefit to keeping it up, because of our ability to put it back up within a window of monitoring," Calhoun says. "It would have been purely a cost to the city as well as a utilization of resources that could potentially be utilized elsewhere. What we have now you can get back at the same point you needed before without having the ongoing cost."

Cincinnati's city manager says expenses to-date are less than $250,000. Patrick Duhaney says the city hopes to be reimbursed by state or federal government. Council approved up to $11 million to cover costs.

Calhoun says the site was set up with hopes it wouldn't be needed.

"The fact that we're now backing out some of the infrastructure does not at all indicate that the community should change its practices or reduce the aggressiveness at which it is trying to fight COVID," he adds.

Calhoun says if cases spike, the facility can be set up again in less than seven days.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.