National Guard members have gone to work preparing a temporary field hospital in New York City and are looking for additional hospital locations in New York as well as Seattle, Wash.
One video of the effort saw members of the New York National Guard convert the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center into a hospital with rows of makeshift hospital rooms with beds set up.
During a Thursday Pentagon press briefing, U.S. Army General James McConville announced the 531st Hospital from Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas would deploy to New York as part of the effort to convert spaces into makeshift hospital facilities. In his Thursday remarks, McConville said the 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, Colo., was also being deployed to Seattle, Wash. to determine where to place a hospital facility in the city.
McConville said the makeshift hospitals were being set up to treat non-coronavirus patients, while the state’s existing hospitals were handling the large number of coronavirus patients.
During the same press briefing, Army Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn said efforts were underway to “take some pressure off of the local and state healthcare system.”
McConville said military personnel in New York City were already preparing in advance for the arrival of the Kentucky and Texas hospital units.
Videos from Wednesday showed personnel from the New York Army National Guard 133rd Composite Supply Company moving pallets of hospital materials into the Javits Center.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also announced its involvement in the hospital construction efforts.
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commanding general of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said the effort to expand medical capacities is “an unbelievably complicated problem,” but one potentially solved by finding unused buildings like the Javits Center and leasing them to the USACE to set up as hospitals.
Semonite said USACE has a standard design for reconfiguring spaces into field hospitals and said the design is already approved by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Semonite and the USACE recently reviewed State University of New York school buildings and he said the USACE would plan to review 10 other buildings as possible additional hospital sites.
Semonite said the effort to establish the makeshift hospitals comes as many states governors expect their peak number of coronavirus cases to hit some time around the middle of April.
Flynn said approximately 650 medical personnel would be going to New York City and a similar number of personnel would also be deployed to Seattle.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Tuesday that the USNS Comfort hospital ship would also deploy to New York in the coming weeks to alleviate the state’s medical caseload and treat non-coronavirus patients.
New York City and the Seattle area have both been hard hit by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
According to the USACE, coronavirus cases in New York had surpassed 30,000 as of Wednesday, up from fewer than 5,000 cases on Sunday.
In total, the U.S. has risen as the country with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 97,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus case tracking map Friday.