Too sick to go home but no room at hospitals, where do COVID-19 patients go to recover?

"When looking at no place for your loved one to go, it is pretty frustrating. It's a big emotional roller coaster."


Don and Shannon Meyer, both 85 of Nebraska, both have COVID-19. Shannon's symptoms are more severe than her husband's.

"She started exhibiting severe weakness, shortness of breath, severe back and neck pain," said Don Meyer, the couple's son.

He is positive too, exposed by his parents during trips to the emergency room. The first one was Oct. 27. Doctors sent Shannon back home to Maple Ridge Retirement Community. But the next day, Don Meyer took his mother back to the doctor.

"Once they saw the condition she was in, they sent her back to the ER at Lakeside Hospital again," Meyer said.

But less than a week into her hospital stay, Meyer received a frantic call from his dad.

"Due to the shortage of beds, they wanted her to transition out and we were unable to get into any rehab facility. They were going to send her home," he said.

To recover at home, Shannon, who uses a wheelchair, needs private in-home care. But the Meyers couldn't find anything affordable, due to her coronavirus diagnosis.

They were stuck.

"When looking at no place for your loved one to go, it is pretty frustrating. It's a big emotional roller coaster."

Shannon Meyer is one of the unknown numbers of positive patients who fall somewhere in between. They're not sick enough to receive that critical level of care at the hospital, but still too sick to recover at home.

"There's got to be another way. Is there someplace else? What is available?"

Finding few options, the Meyers did find a safe place for Shannon nearly two hours away in Corning, Iowa. CHI-Health Mercy had a room through what's called 'swing bed critical access care.'

"Small hospitals in the outlying metro-area take patients and care for them until they are COVID free," Meyer said.

As sister staton KETV looked for help, they discovered a program called the Nebraska Accommodation Project.

Using CARES Act funds, the state contracts with hotels to provide temporary housing for people in similar situations, like Shannon Meyer.

Hotels designated for isolation may provide on-site health care or telehealth for positive patients who've been exposed but can't go home because of a high-risk family member.

So far, 400 Nebraskans have used the program.

It's an option Meyer wishes he'd known about for his mother. He believes other families just give up and go home.

"There are probably a lot of people getting checked out that probably shouldn't be going home but are," he said.