H.W. Hunter Pavillion

Rows of green cots wait for potential COVID-19 recovery patients in the H.W. Hunter Pavilion at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds would serve as a recovery center for patients who may need additional recovery time to free up hospital beds for more severe patients. 

LANCASTER — The 400 green cots inside the H.W. Hunter and Van Dam pavilions at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds wait for potential COVID-19 patients that city officials hope never come.

Another 400 cots could be ready if needed. As of Tuesday, Lancaster had eight COVID-19 cases, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. County officials also reported three new deaths, including an individual younger than 18, in Lancaster.

The recovery center, if activated, would serve as a surge facility for COVID-19 patients, to free up hospital beds for more severe patients who may need additional recovery time before they go home.

Lancaster also has two hotels under contract with 248 total beds to serve as additional surge facilities, if necessary. City officials hope to get to 2,000 beds, potentially.

“Hopefully we don’t have to use them, but we’re prepared if we need to,” Lancaster City Manager Jason Caudle said.

There are 251 cots inside the Hunter Pavilion and another 149 cots inside the Van Dam Pavilion. In one corner of the Hunter Pavilion, about 20 cots are set aside with a white chair placed next to each cot. The chair is for a family member or friend to visit with a patient. Visitors will be able to rotate in shifts. If the center opens, each of the cots will have a chair next to it.

A “healthy hands start here” sanitizing floor stand nearby dispenses a white puff of hand sanitizer, touch-free. The stands are also inside the building near the entrance.

“We’re trying to get ahead of this so that when it does get here, it won’t be as big of an impact as it has been in other cities,” Andrew Noga, Lancaster’s emergency manager, said Tuesday during a tour of the facility.

The image of the 251 cots lined up inside the Hunter Pavilion is either reassuring or frightening, depending on your perspective.

“It’s a catch-22, isn’t it?” Deputy Fair Manager Debbie Smith said. “I would like to think people would be certainly reassured they have somewhere to go if something happens.”

Lancaster and the AV Fairgrounds reportedly established the first recovery center in the state. The city is also working with The Salvation Army, Antelope Valley Hospital and the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.

“It’s an effort of a bunch of people coming together for one good cause,” Noga said.

The recovery center, if activated, would likely serve those patients who are not ready to go home yet, but they are well enough to not need hospital care. The fairgrounds and AV Hospital would provide any meals needed. The Salvation Army provided the cots.

The foyer would be a designated cell phone area for visitors to talk to people. 

The recovery center could be activated if the Antelope Valley sees a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, as Italy did. 

According to the most recent figures, Italy has 69,176 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6,820 deaths, while 8,236 people have recovered.

“We have this ready … When we’re ready to pull the trigger, it’s got to be boom, we have our first group coming in, let’s go,” Noga said.

The cots will have plastic covers so patients do not have to lie down directly on the cot. The cots will have a heavy blanket, a lighter blanket and a kit with Kleenex, toothpaste and toothbrush, shampoo and soap.

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