The Army Corps of Engineers has compiled a list of four existing structures in New York state that could be quickly converted into hospitals providing COVID-19 care.
“We would like to do this in three or four weeks and try to go as fast as we can,” General Todd Semonite, Commanding General of the Corps, said in a press conference.
The new hospitals are partly in response to a plea by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who has called on the Corps for the construction of new hospitals as well as the repurposing of existing structures that can be turned into care facilities.
“This is what they do,” Cuomo said of the Corps. “They build hospitals.”
Healthcare and construction industry officials are particularly animated by the fact that two large hospitals were constructed earlier this spring in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak.
Those same officials say the states of California, New Jersey, and Washington may be among the first to see new COVID-19-specific hospitals, built and opened on an accelerated timetable.
Those same officials have suggested that hotels, motels, and college dormitories could be fairly quickly reconverted into hospital space.
“This is an unbelievably complicated problem and there is no way we’re going to be able to do this with a complicated solution,” said Semonite. “We need something super simple.”
Semonite additionally suggested that a protocol for future hospitals across the country will see governors providing a list of potential facilities for reconversion, while also handling all of the leasing details.
Once those details are ironed out, according to Semonite, the Corps would step in, hire contractors, and transform the facility in question “in an exceptionally short amount of days.”
Even though the immediate challenge of creating entirely new hospitals may be met, a longer-range effort may be needed, according to Air Force Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs.
In a Pentagon briefing, Friedrichs remarked: “If we build a 200-bed or 25-bed trauma hospital to take care of people with coronavirus, that’s not really a great solution to the coronavirus challenge. We don’t have any 500-bed hospitals designed for infectious disease outbreaks. That does not exist in the inventory.”
By Garry Boulard
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