The Army Corps of Engineers is stepping up in a major way to help healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

On April 17, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commander of the Corps, announced they were on day 35 of building 28 alternate-care facilities with approximately 15,800 beds. This is a major increase from the 17 facilities planned just 10 days prior.

During a press conference, Semonite said the Corps is working hard to ensure hospital bed space is not a factor when treating patients during the pandemic. He said the decision was made to convert existing buildings into alternate-care facilities, because he knew the solution needed to be something extremely simple.

Governors have worked closely with the Corps to highlight their need, and they have responded by converting everything from hotels and dormitories to convention centers and field houses into makeshift healthcare facilities. Many are even equipped with features including showers, pharmacies, and x-ray departments.  

Semonite said the engineers designed a standard solution for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 hospital bed facilities. He noted that 41 states have used the Corps’ design to create their own temporary care centers.

New York City Leaning on Makeshift Hospitals

To date, New York has been hit by COVID-19 much harder than any other state. In fact, it had more COVID-19 patients than any other country in the world — besides the United States — as of April 11, according to CNN.

Consequently, makeshift hospitals have proven vital for the state. A field hospital set up in Central Park was nearly at capacity on April 9, according to The New York Post. The 14-tent, 52-bed facility was built by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization.

The field hospital has a special PPE station, that provides healthcare workers with essential gear, including rubber boots, face shields, N95 masks, and gloves.

The Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan has also been converted into an emergency hospital. The building’s main showroom has been transformed into four 250-bed hospitals, each totaling approximately 40,000 square feet.

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