Army leaders had announced last week its plans to convert vacant buildings into makeshift hospitals in multiple states, starting in New York, as hospitals brace for shortages caused by the pandemic.
This week, construction is set to kick off as the Jacob K Javits Convention Center in Manhattan will be refitted into a 1,000-bed hospital with an additional 1,800 field medical stations. Soldiers from the New York National Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and civilian employees will prepare the medical facility, slated to begin operating in a week to 10 days. USACE has produced a standard design to retrofit medical facilities.
The race against the virus is “an unbelievably complicated problem” that needs a simple solution, said Lt Gen Todd Semonite, commanding general of US Army Corps of Engineers.
This solution, he said, begins with state governors. Local leaders will pinpoint available buildings, such as hotels, dormitories and convention centres, in a prioritized order. Once identified, the existing buildings will be leased by the state and handed over to USACE. The corps will take over and hire contractors “in an exceptionally short amount of days” Semonite said when the plan was announced last week.
The facilities will need ‘negative pressure abilities’ to keep the virus sealed off from room-to-room, and be outfitted with the appropriate medical supplies based on a list provided by the Department of Health & Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Each facility will be staffed with medical professionals hired by the state, Semonite explained.
New York will become “the standard-setter”, Semonite said, for how USACE will respond.
USACE has created standard plans (see below) for the conversion of facilities such as hotels into makeshift hospitals.