Corps Leads Effort To Construct Alternate Care Facilities In COVID-19 Response

With available hospital space nationwide dwindling with the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading the federal effort to convert existing buildings into “alternate care facilities.”

The first of those makeshift hospitals is the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which has been converted into a 2,000-bed hospital for non-COVID-19 patients. By shifting non-coronavirus patients to the Javits Center, the Corps—and New York officials—hope to free up more space at the area’s hospitals for more critical COVID-19 care.

Other Corps-directed facility conversions in New York will be located in Westchester County Community Center in White Plains, N.Y, and the State University of New York’s Stony Brook and Old Westbury campuses on Long Island, according to the Defense Department.

New York has become the current epicenter for virus infections, with more than 92,000 confirmed cases as of April 2.

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The New York alternate care facilities are part of nationwide mission assignments the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given the Corps to combat COVID-19 in what’s been termed a “whole-of-America” response to the pandemic.

The Corps has already begun work on an alternate care facility in Detroit, with other districts actively partnering with state and local governments to identify, assess and develop conversion plans for existing facilities. The alternate care facilities can be for both non-COVID-19 patients or patients who have tested positive for the disease.

Semonite In Front

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers for the Army Corps of Engineers, has been a frequent voice in press conferences and on news programs, emphasizing speed and simplicity as key components to an effective response.

“This is an unbelievably complicated problem, and there’s no way we’re going to be able to do this with a complicated solution,” he said in a recent White House press conference. “We need a super-simple solution.”