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Army Corps of Engineers eyes 114 sites to convert to hospitals in coronavirus fight

Army Corps of Engineers eyes 114 sites to convert to hospitals in coronavirus fight
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The Army Corps of Engineers is eyeing at least 114 facilities to potentially serve as hospitals to treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Army Corps has assessed 81 of the locations — including hotels, sports arenas, convention centers, college dormitories and fairgrounds — that could either accept patients who have contracted COVID-19 or treat non-infected individuals in order to free up overwhelmed hospitals, Gen. Todd Semonite told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.

The Defense Department has ramped up its response to calls from states and cities in desperate need of help in addressing the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 100,000 Americans and killed more than 1,500.

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The military has dispatched hospital ships to Los Angeles and New York, sent mobile hospitals to cities on both coasts, and is providing 2,000 ventilators and 5 million protective masks. In addition, state governors have mobilized more than 10,000 National Guard troops to aid in the response.

Semonite said many of the facilities being eyed by the Army Corps are in Washington, California and New York. The corps is already in the process of converting New York City’s Javits Center into a 2,900-room hospital.

Several more sites are expected to be in use next week in cities like Sacramento, Calif., Seattle and Chicago, where the McCormick Place Convention Center has been targeted as such a facility, Semonite said.

He added that the Army Corps has been assessing 15 to 20 locations a day and expects the current total of 114 “to go up by 20 to 30 every single day.”

Once a facility is confirmed, the city would then lease it and the corps would hire contractors to complete construction to convert the site within weeks.

“We’ve already cut contracts and we’re cutting contracts every night to be able to get contractors to be able to come into the facilities,” Semonite said.

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He said he was concerned about states like Michigan, Florida and Louisiana, where confirmed coronavirus cases have rapidly increased in the past week.

Semonite said he spoke with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Wednesday to discuss possible facilities to alter.

“In Louisiana, we do have some relatively large facilities that we can use and my engineers are doing plans for him today to try to give him some options,” Semonite said.

The Army Corps is also developing options for Florida, which has “a more aging community,” and growing coronavirus cases in Miami, Orlando and Tampa.

In Michigan, an Army Corps colonel is “working with the leadership,” Semonite said.