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Corps of Engineers Rapidly Assessing, Building Hospital Spaces

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At the request of mayors and governors from multiple states and territories, Army Corps of Engineers personnel are assessing or building structures for both non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 hospitals.

"The last thing we want to do is have someone die for lack of a bed space," said Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Semonite, who spoke with reporters at the Pentagon today, is in Miami, where he's working with the governor and mayors to assess and build hospitals.

Two men sit on the floor and look at a blueprint.
District Discussion
Member of the Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District discusses the layout of a potential COVID-19 alternate care facility in Kauai, Hawaii, April 3, 2020.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Effie Mahugh
VIRIN: 200403-A-TD292-1009M
Engineer inspects facility.
Electrical Panel
Assessment team member Jon Springer with the Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District photographs an electrical panel at a former Yakima, Wash., hospital, April 1, 2020.
Photo By: William Dowell, Army
VIRIN: 200401-A-DT641-003M

The Corps of Engineers is pushing contractors hard to build quickly in hot spots, Semonite said. "We don't have time to deal with red tape and bureaucracy."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are taking the lead on where construction will take place, and they've been providing modeling updates that forecast where the need will be the greatest and where the number of cases have peaked. The Army Corps of Engineers is getting updated models daily, the general said.


The size of hospitals will vary based on the need, Semonite said. If fewer beds are needed, then a hotel could be easily converted. If the needs are greater, as in a metropolitan area, a convention center might serve as a hospital. But they take longer to convert, he added.

Semonite provided a breakdown of alternate care facilities being built, pending or under assessment as of today:

  • 834 of the 914 facility assessments requested  have been completed.
  • 23 facilities totaling 8,571 beds are pending construction.
  • 17 facilities designed by the Corps of Engineers with a total of 5,869 beds will be built by the states, not the Corps of Engineers.
  • 17 facilities with a total of 14,759 beds have been built by the Corps of Engineers.

In the next several months, Semonite said, 40 to 50 total facilities might be built by the Corps of Engineers, but he acknowledged that's just an estimate because it depends on the number of COVID-19 cases.

As of today, Semonite said, some of the facilities designed by the Corps of Engineers that will also be built by them are:

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City: COVID-19 design for 2,100 beds, 98% completed.

  • Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York:COVID-19 design for 110 beds, 15% completed.
  • McCormick Place in Chicago: COVID-19 design for 3,000 beds, 70% completed.
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook, in Stony Brook, New York: non-COVID-19 design for 1,038 beds, 26% completed.
  • Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois: COVID-19 design for 283 beds, 20% completed.
  • Metro South Medical Center in Blue Island, Illinois: COVID-19 design for 550 beds, 30% completed.
  • State University of New York at Old Westbury in Old Westbury,  New York: non- COVID-19 design for 1,024 beds, 8% completed.
  • TCF Center in Detroit: COVID-19 design for 1,000 beds, 95% completed.
  • Gibson Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico: COVID-19 design for 200 beds, 21% completed.

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