COVID-19: Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park

Aerial view of rows of cube-like temporary patient care spaces at the Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park

To support Wisconsin’s statewide COVID-19 response and ensure hospitals had adequate capacity, we activated the Alternate Care Facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park on October 14, 2020. It served as an overflow facility for hospitals across the state and was active until February 14, 2021. During this time, it served 170 total patients. View the facility's daily census data(Excel)

On March 19, 2021, the alternate care facility began the decommissioning process.

The alternate care facility helped support Wisconsin's hospital capacity

The alternate care facility provided an alternative to receiving care in a traditional hospital. The main purpose was to support COVID-19 patients that are not severely ill but still require continued medical support after hospitalization or an admission to a hospitals’ Emergency Department. The facility was staffed with qualified clinical professionals that monitored patients until they were healthy enough to return home. By safely transferring patients to this facility after their traditional hospital stay, Wisconsin was be better able to maximize bed capacity for patients that required more significant levels of care while reducing strain on the state’s health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, from December 22, 2020, through February 5, 2021, the alternate care facility had a Bamlanivimab Infusion Clinic. The clinic received referrals from southeast Wisconsin health systems. Those health systems now have the capacity to provide care for their patients. The Alternate Care Facility was grateful for the opportunity to partner with area health systems by offering Bamlanivimab infusion to patients at a time of great need.

Background on the alternate care facility

Why was the alternate care facility needed in southeastern Wisconsin?

In the spring, Southeastern Wisconsin was one area of the state that was heavily impacted by COVID-19, including the counties of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Washington, and Ozaukee. The impact on these counties include not only increased levels of individuals testing positive for COVID-19, but also elevated hospitalization utilization, and deaths as a result of the disease. Milwaukee County had multiple medical, epidemiology, and future operations teams comprised of all local municipalities that identified projections requiring alternate care facility infrastructure to meet the estimated surge capacity projections. These partners remain responsible for its completion, including the Milwaukee County Executive, local mayors, Milwaukee Commissioner of Health, Milwaukee County Medical Director, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, Milwaukee County Emergency Management, and others. While the facility was never needed for patients over the spring and summer of 2020, rising hospitalization rates across the state in the fall have led to its opening.

What was the process to engage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct the Alternate Care Facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park?

  • Local leaders in the Milwaukee area notified Governor Evers that they had significant concerns regarding the surge capacity of the region’s health systems in the face of the spread of COVID-19. These leaders represented both local elected officials and local health systems.
  • Additionally, Milwaukee County formally submitted a request to the Wisconsin Emergency Management team to build an alternate care facility due to the predicted escalation in COVID-19 cases and pressure on the area’s health systems.
  • This request was then sent to FEMA, formally requesting support from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to design, engineer, and construct the facility as a temporary Alternate Care Facility. With direction from and in coordination with FEMA and the federal Department of Health and Human Services, USACE constructed the functional requirements for the alternate care facility to function as a temporary accommodation for individuals needing care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why was State Fair Park chosen as the location for this alternate care facility?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identifies existing locations that have several critical elements, which include things like ease of access, abundant parking, and proximity to health systems.

Who participated in the construction of the alternate care facility?

To construct the alternate care facility, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, carrying out their assignment, signed a contract with Gilbane Milwaukee along with several local subcontractors, including:

  • Johnson Controls
  • J.F. Ahern
  • Hetzel Sanfillipo
  • HGA
  • Staff Electric
  • Langer Roofing
  • Derse
  • Occupational Healthcare Associates

How is operation of the facility being funded?

Funding for the alternate care facility will come from the $445 million surge reserve fund set aside by Gov. Evers to ensure the ability of Wisconsin hospital systems and communities to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases. The state’s testing needs are anticipated to exceed the original $260 million budget by up to an additional $270 million, which is also being covered by the reserve fund. These response programs are funded with the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, which only allows activities to be funded through the end of 2020.

Facility use and decommissioning

How is it decided to decommission and/or use the alternate care facility?

The end of the pandemic is not currently known, and there are currently no plans to re-purpose or decommission the facility. The following organizations/individuals will be regularly reviewing data and health care system needs (both regionally and statewide):

  • Department of Health Services
  • Department of Administration
  • Alternate Care Facility Leadership Team
  • Other local and state health officials identified by the above mentioned

The Department of Administration is physically responsible for the process of decommissioning the site, which means bringing everything back to its original state for Wisconsin State Fair Park, including complete sanitation of the facility. Once a decision is made by the groups identified above, the Department of Administration will coordinate decommissioning efforts.

Last Revised: March 19, 2021