Counties explore converting former prison for COVID-19 care

March 21, 2020 GMT

BENSON, Minn. (AP) — With the new coronavirus expected to spread further, three western Minnesota counties are exploring whether they can turn part of a former prison into a COVID-19 medical center.

The Swift County Monitor reports the plan involves a pod at the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. Hospitals in Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Swift counties have asked prison owner CoreCivic about the possibility, and the company is open to the idea.

The $1 million plan was put forward at an emergency meeting of the Swift County Board of Commissioners on Friday and was expected to get funding votes in all three counties next week.


The 1,600-bed facility in Appleton has been empty since 2010. Appleton Area Health Services CEO Lori Andreas said the plan would start with 11 rooms and expand to 77 beds if needed.

Tennessee-based CoreCivic said in a statement it would provide the facility at no cost, meaning the company will get no financial benefit.

“This is an extraordinary time in the history of our country when the public and private sectors need to work together to find innovative ways to solve the most urgent problems we face,” CoreCivic President and CEO Damon Hininger said in the statement. “We see our role as supporting our government partners and the communities we together serve in any way we can.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.


This story has been updated to correct that CoreCivic says it will provide the facility at ‘no cost,’ not ‘at cost’