STAFF: (Inaudible) today General Semonite from Army Corps of Engineers to talk about their response to COVID. I'm Army Colonel (inaudible) on the record. We'll take questions from the phone, one question in the room and we got about 20 -- 20 minutes.
All right. General Semonite?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL TODD T. GEN. SEMONITE: Listen, I want to thank you all for coming today and for those on the -- and I'll look forward to answering questions.
I'm not going to a lot of detail what the concept of or what our plan is. Most of you have heard this. I do want to reiterate though that when we got this call about two weeks to go to help the Governor of New York, we went up with what we call a standard design. And I have said several times this is an unbelievably complicated scenario here. We need a very, very simple solution.
So the standard design was basically vetted through FEMA -- we are working for FEMA here -- but also vetted through HHS. And then as we continue to be able to support state governors and local city mayors to be able to site-adapt a standard design to be able to apply to both COVID cases and non-COVID cases. And as you remember, the concept was many of our facilities were going to be small room, which is hotel or like college dormitory, or larger facilities, which would be more like a field house or perhaps a convention center.
The only reason I bring that up is that anytime you have any type of a standard design, we want to continue to learn. And I've been on the ground in the last couple days to New York City, to Chicago and Detroit, and we have continued to see where our engineers who are actually doing this construction are being pretty innovative of how do we site-adapt that standard design to even give more capability back out to the great doctors and nurses who are going to be taking care of these patients out there.
And so I think that's the main thing we want is to continue to be learning here, and then as we continue to think about how would we apply a design to a installation or a city we've not actually built out yet, how do we wrap those lessons learned back in. So I think that's the -- the main thought that we wanted to try to convey.
I was here, I think, last Friday afternoon and you asked me how many requests for site assessments have we actually received, and the number was 114 last Friday afternoon. Today's number is 750 requests for site assessments, and we've actually completed 673. And I want to reassure every community, whether a large city or a small town, if your mayor or your governor needs to be able to have the Corps of Engineers come in to be able to do an assessment of a site, we have the depth and the capacity to be able to do that. So we are not resource-constrained right now, we want to stay ahead of this.
And the reason we want to do the site assessment is we might get a building nominated to say this would be a great facility, but if we go into the mechanical room and it has a hard time producing enough heat or we have a -- some type of a hazardous issue in there, the last thing we want to do is to inherit a building that's got problems. So we're trying to kind of put our approval on it, first of all, before we do a lot of investments back in there.
I want to show you just a couple products and we're going to continue to post these to our website at a relatively consistent time. I think we're going to do this around 11 o'clock every morning. The first one I want to show you is what we would call an infographic, and it is the Corps of Engineers. And again I want to reiterate, we are working -- we're obviously a DOD capability, but we are working under FEMA mission assignments.
And I'm certainly not going to go through this, but these talks about how many different stadiums, how many different COVID beds we're going to have. And I'm going to kind of walk you through those numbers today. But anytime you want to see, this will change every 24 hours and we will continue to be able to give you assessments on what we're doing out in the field.
I think the other thing that I want to stress is the criticality of what the White House, the administration, and the Secretary of Defense are putting on our mission. I get phone calls from senior leaders consistently throughout the day to say what else can we do to be able to help set the Corps of Engineers up for success, and we certainly appreciate that. But our ability to have a lot of authority and the ability to go down and work where the local mayors and governors allows us to really get this job done. And then again, the nice thing is our ability to completely decentralize this down to the colonel on the ground to be able to execute following the overall intent and the specifications, but to be able to site-adapt it, it's a big deal.
The other thing I want to stress is that in the last week or so we've done a lot more on modeling, and so now we're taking several of the different models that's coming out of the Vice President's task force. And many of those models are really looking at the -- the slope of people that are getting the virus. We are putting these against two variables. We're looking at the slope and we're really looking for exponential or a higher rate of growth in the national norm, but we're also looking at bed shortages.
We have some unbelievable data right now from every single state. We can click on a state and we can understand what are the bed requirements, what are the beds available, and then have some degree of an understanding. And this is arrayed along when we think the max curve is going to be for a given city. So City X right now, we might know that the 24th of April is when we're going to have a max requirement. We can see the delta, and that's why as we sit down to the city and the -- and the cities and the -- and the governors, we're able to understand their plan because this is a state and city plan. It is a federal supporting effort to be able to augment, but it really goes back to supporting state and local governors.
I want to go to a new chart you've never seen, and this is kind of the rollup and I'm just going to kind of walk you through this. And I don't expect you to read this on TV, but I'll basically just walk through how this looks. We want you to understand where we actually have active contracts, so the category of this green in here and I'll just reflect over to the -- where it says "Awarded." These are awarded contracts where we already have a contractor in a convention center right now, and a couple of these I'm going to give you by example of the progress that's being done in there.
We have eight facilities. There's actually nine different contracts, but two of them are in Javits, so eight facilities. The number today is 9,693 beds that we are creating for mayors and governors in these eight particular sites.
This has been vetted through the governors and the mayors, and now we are very cautious not to get ahead of them. They have a lot of different pieces that they've got to work in these particular areas to walk through the mechanics of how they're going to roll this out. So there was a request a couple days ago to say "Show me your list of all 750." We're not going to do that. We clearly know to leave the mayor and the governor some decision space as to do they want to be able to execute COVID or non-COVID.
And as you're probably aware on the last 24 hours, just with Javits alone, we have seen a scenario where some of these have actually changed. And the beauty of the plan that we have is agile enough that we can then come back in and either modify whether it's pressure in a facility, whether it's room configuration, we're able to stay ahead of that.
I want to go to the second category, which is -- which is the orange category. This is primarily pending. These are contracts that were in the final negotiations with. We're writing the final paperwork. Perhaps the governor hasn't actually mentioned it publicly yet, and we're still working the contract scenarios. But basically, these are nine more facilities we're bringing in at about 5,039 beds.
The yellow -- the white box in the bottom is another set that's just a little bit further behind. A good example, let's assume that a mayor says, "I'd like to have a facility within a mile of a hospital." That's kind of our criteria -- keep it as close as you can to a hospital.
We find a great facility, but it's four miles away. The governor has to think through, "Do I want to do that or not?" So there's a whole bin. This is specifically 15 facilities, about 10,000 more beds that we're ready to start building if we get the thumbs up from the city mayor or the governor.
So I just got to want you to understand this is iterative. Green are already awarded. Orange are the ones that we're actually getting ready to pull the trigger on, and then the white ones are those that are on deck and will continue to be brought in.
There's a new category here of the blue, OK? And I want to be able to let you know, and again this is where the power of this idea is that the Corps of Engineers doesn't have to be the one that execute this. This is the entire federal team working together -- HHS, FEMA and us under President or Vice President Trump's direction -- I mean, Vice President Pence's direction here on the task force, but to be able to basically give a design over to a given city mayor and say, "We think that Hotel Number 3 is a great option for you. We think there's 100 beds that can go in there. Here's the specifications that we would recommend you use. You apply your city codes into it. Here's even a potential lease that you can actually -- a draft lease you can work with that hotel."
And some of the states have opted to do this themselves. And that not only do take some of the workload off the Corps of Engineers, but today we're ready to announce that basically eight of these facilities have been based -- have been done by local mayors or city governors with a total of 5,600 beds.
I want to make sure I condition this. There are many, many other arrangements that are done by local leaders that we are not tracking. If it's something where the city understands and they're cutting a contract with hotels, we don't track the entire domain of the problem. We're specifically asked where there's a requirement delta, we go in and we make the plan, we pass our plan that we designed, not only the specifications but the specific plan for that building over to that mayor and they build that out.
The other thing we want to say today is for the contracts we have awarded, we're actually going to show you what I would call a "quad chart." And if you don't mind, can we bring up the quad chart for Detroit, so it's going to be relatively simple and you aren't going to be able to see this again on the screen, but you need to know that these are now uploaded and you can pull them down.
It'll basically -- and I'm going to basically talk off of what's called the TCF Center in Detroit, Michigan. I just want to use this kind of as an example of how we would continue to go through and kind of show you what you're looking at here.
So, obviously, how much money do we have? This particular one is $11.5 million, COVID or non-COVID. This one happens to be COVID. The amount of beds, about 1,000 beds.
The upper right, you'll actually see our plan. And we have a lot more details you can click in and expand it, but you'll see where all the individual bed pods are, normally 10 or 15 beds surrounding a nurse's station. Then you'll see a nurse's station, then you'll see things like shower rooms, extra bathrooms, crash carts if they're needed. And then on every one of these facilities, there's normally an entry side where patients are coming in.
So ambulances come in. They get processed into the facility, then they go into where that actual -- the patient area is.
There's another one on the other side, which was being they were staffed. So think of it as kind of a -- you know, where people that are not affected could come in and be able to help support. And obviously, the affected people come from the other direction.
And then we basically have a little bit of a heat map to kind of show when do we think the potential curve of that will be up. I think this one here we continue to -- we're working the anticipated peak, and then perhaps a picture or two of the work-in-progress.
And I really want to brag a little bit on the leadership in Michigan here. I was with Governor Whitmer the other day with her leadership and just an unbelievably impressive team. The governor asked us to do this. We laid the design out. The governor then made the decision and then we went to FEMA who gave us the thumbs up.
This particular one, again, is about a 10 by 10 area. It's got three hard walls with a curtain on it. And then inside this particular area, we bring in electricity for all the medical equipment. We've also got the ability to put in hot and cold water, also sewage to be able to drain anything out the sewer line.
And this is one where the city of Detroit went above and beyond by saying, "We really want to have oxygen into that area right there with all those patient areas." In some of the other facilities oxygen comes in a tank and it's wheeled in and it's more of a portable oxygen. Here, the city asked us to design a manifold system where basically we're bringing all these hard pipes in in the ceiling and we're dropping oxygen down into every one of these particular pods so if that patient actually needs oxygen, there is certified oxygen to code right there in every single pod.
So I guess one is we continue to talk to you in the next couple weeks here. I think right now what we've loaded up today is the nine quad charts for the nine facilities that we've got done. But we want to continue to kind of show you the different array.
Every single site is custom-built. Every single site is built to the specifications of the -- of the medical plan that that mayor wants to use. And every single site is being done with a different type of a business case on who's the contractor, who provides all the rest of the support services.
As I've said in the past, this is a three-legged stool, and I use the analogy of the three Ss. We need sites to be able to build these facilities. That's what the Corps of Engineers has worked in with the local officials. We need the supplies. That's another critical area and you're tracking this, but that is mainly going to be done by the local cities, the states, and HHS and FEMA. And then we need the staff, same thing.
So today, if you ask me a lot of questions about supplies and staff, I would defer back to other agencies. Our job is to stay in our lane and work with the sites.
So I think with that, Colonel, we'll pause right there and take whatever questions you have.
STAFF: Thank you, Sir.
Lita, we'll go to you first, Lita Baldor.
Q: Hi. I'm going to pass to somebody else ask a question. Go ahead.
STAFF: Thank you, Lita.
Q: Hi, Sir. Thanks for doing this. This may be slightly out of your purview, I'm not sure, but I wanted to ask you about the pier-side testing for the Comfort in New York. The announcement this morning that there would be this new pier-side testing and it -- and it mentioned taking temperatures in a questionnaire, and I'm wondering if that is the extent of the screening or if there is some kind of quicker testing that's being done because, as you know, people can be asymptomatic.
GEN. GEN. SEMONITE: Travis, I imagine that's a great question, we're working 750 facilities. I'm worried about the site piece. I would defer you back to another expert to be able to answer that question. And I'm sorry I don't have the answer, but that is not in my lane, over.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Hi, General. Thank you so much for coming back to talk to us. I actually have a bunch of questions for you. So I'm at home and I'm looking at the Army Corps site with the -- the nine contracts that -- that you've listed. But I don't see, for example, the CenturyLink Center in Seattle where you guys are already -- work is already underway there. Is there a place on this website where we can see everything that is either being considered or underway? And then I have a couple other questions for you.
GEN. SEMONITE: The CenturyLink is actually in the blue category that I talked about. This is where the state made a decision to be able to build this through another venue. They could either contract it or use their own laborers or perhaps their own venue so they made a decision to actually build this out themselves. So while we did the design, we basically -- in other words, how many hospital -- how many rooms go where, where are the nurses stations. We did the design for that, but we basically passed that over to the state.
So it is not on our site. What we wanted to be aware of that there are some or we've done some work to be able to design it. It is not our intent to be able to roll out all the different locations that are in the orange category, the white category or the blue category, but it's something where clearly, if you have questions, I would go to that specific state and ask them questions on those sites. But we'll certainly, you know, be able to advise.
I think there's only about seven or eight sites that were in the blue category -- eight facilities, but CenturyLink is in the blue category, over.
Q: OK, thank you for that. Likewise last week you talked about the Sleep Train facility in Sacramento. Is that another blue? And just, in general ...
GEN. SEMONITE: This is where the local officials ...
Q: ... as ...
GEN. SEMONITE: The city, you know, very easily can use our resources, but if they actually have perhaps a contractor in their local state that they want to use instead or they have certain workers they want to use, this is their prerogative. We are here to assist them. But Sleep Train is the same exact thing as CenturyLink. That is in the blue category where the state has made a decision to be able to build that out themselves.
And -- and I'll be honest, these states are amazing at being able to do it. Same thing, the city mayors, the leadership down in some of these large convention centers and the engineers down there are just as good as ours. They do amazing work. And wherever I can take our Corps of Engineers and put them on facilities that might not have that depth in another city, it just allows us to spread the workload, Tara.
Q: OK, thank you. And then finally, last week when you were talking to us you've mentioned that you would hit Chicago and probably Washington State next where you saw other hotspots. But I know Washington State fell off your schedule. Is that because you guys see the curve flattening out there and there may not be a need or do you still intend to get out there? There are still sites there that you are assessing.
GEN. SEMONITE: I actually tried to use my schedule to go to where perhaps leadership on the ground can either help resolve any issues or just if nothing else continue to reinforce success. I was in Chicago and Detroit this week because those are the two biggest things that I wanted to personally see. And I was very, very impressed by both Governor Pritzker's team and Governor Whitmer's team, and so I feel very, very comfortable with those two cities. Still a lot of challenges, but I think that we've at least got those two facilities up.
Because Washington and CenturyLink primarily went on their own to be able to do that the specific facility, I have diverted my -- my focus. And it is premature to say where I'm going next week, but in the back room, my staff is working two or three other cities to be able to go in probably Tuesday and Wednesday on one trip and Friday on another trip just to be able to see.
And here's where I'm really concerned, if we know that the peak again is in three weeks and we know that we might need -- three weeks is 21 days. If we need 23 days to build a site, that means we're already two days too late. What I've asked my --my team to do is that if there's a decision that has to be made by a senior leader, we've got to be able to tell them, "You got to make that decision by next Monday morning. And if not, it's going to be a day for day slip."
We are on such a tight time line, we can't condense this schedule anymore. So the biggest thing we want to do is to advise elected officials that this is when we've got to be able to snap the chalk line, give us the thumbs up.
FEMA is exceptionally supportive here. There's been no delay whatsoever in us getting turned on, but it goes back to making sure that the local officials understand the timelines and to be able to set us on a path if they're going to choose to ask us to help before the need is identified, Tara.
STAFF: Thanks, Tara. We'll go to Ryan in the room. Ryan?
Q: Hello, General. Thanks. Ryan Browne, CNN.
GEN. SEMONITE: Yes, Ryan?
Q: A couple quick follow-ups for you, Sir. You mentioned that you have this kind of document layer or this data point laying out bed shortages and that's how you're kind of prioritizing your projects. Where are the next -- we've seen the list of eight, those -- those locations. Where are the next on that kind of list bed shortages, those critical points? What geographical locations are you looking at right now?
GEN. SEMONITE: So -- and I think a lot of these, I'm taking my lead off of things that the Vice President's team said in the last couple of days. I mean, these are the real medical experts, so we're looking very hard at that.
I personally am worried about Florida, OK, only because if there is -- obviously, there's an age issue here to a degree. And I know the leadership of Florida is engaged. My Colonel in Florida is talking to the leadership of Florida. We have a couple nominated sites that we're looking at. Premature to say where they are. But I think Florida is almost in a realm -- a different realm to a degree only because it's a little bit different than perhaps a standard population.
There's a lot of great work being done in New Jersey right now. I think that's relatively on track, but we're continuing to work. I think right now that on the ones that are in the orange and the white, there's probably 12 to 14 states are in there. So this is not focused on a specific state, it's really focused.
And the other thing we're seeing is that sometimes, these models are changing. There's actually an area where we -- there was two cities in one state about three days ago, and we thought the big problem is going to be in city number one. Today, it actually is in city number two. And it goes back to every single day our guys re-caulk the analytics and they come back and say, "Here is the threat."
Now that doesn't mean we do anything different, we just go to the mayor and make sure the mayor understands your plan as of last week, is it still on track or not? And if we need to modify it, then we're more than willing to modify. That's what I said. This has got to be an agile plan. This virus gets a vote and it's trying to figure out, you know, how do they -- how does it continue to, you know, change over time. We've got to be smart enough to try to anticipate where that change is going to come and to be able to -- if nothing else -- have the appropriate amount of facilities there so that the site component is not the critical path.
Q: And then I saw in the sheet of -- thank you for that -- on the sheet of projects. Javits said it was still listed as a non-COVID facility. Obviously, that's ...
GEN. SEMONITE: It's just because my guys haven't changed the chart probably, OK?
Q: So just -- so going forward, do you anticipate -- you know, we're seeing a lot of the original non-COVID projects being converted to COVID facilities. Are you going to -- do you think you're going to just do COVID facilities from here on out so you don't have to make that conversion down the road? Is that -- is that where you're kind of thinking now?
GEN. SEMONITE: The -- the best option is go with what the mayor or the governor want. They all have different applications of this medical plan. If we are giving advice, and I had a great talk with Governor Pritzker the other night saying there was an advantage of you setting up, you know, your center COVID because if you go in these convention centers. again sometimes there's Hall A, B, C, D and you can subdivide all those out, you could theoretically have a convention center that maybe is only 25% COVID, 75% not or vice-versa. But then as the population changes in there, you could theoretically adapt and change those around.
The modifications that we have to make are relatively minor, believe it or not. Inside the actual 10 by 10 POD, because most of these are almost COVID convalescence. that's what they're looking at, OK? These are not a lot of ventilators necessarily going into the COVID, this is perhaps, you know, the convalescent side. So where -- where pressure is probably the single biggest variable, there's a couple other pieces of equipment that we might need to put in there. But if we do get even a couple days to be able to modify it, I don't think that's going to be a critical issue of us having to convert.
Your -- you've got a good point though. It's so much easier to design it the first time and go in, but we understand that things are going to change, and the last thing we want to do is be inflexible. We've got to be able to go with where the mayor wants to go.
STAFF: Thank you, Sir. We're going to go to the phone lines again.
Carla, Carla Babb?
Q: Hey, General. Again, thank you so much for doing this. These briefings have been incredibly helpful. I have one question and one follow. And my question is specifically what did you do inside the Javits to transition it from something that was taking non-COVID patients to COVID patients? Can you tell us a little how you were able to bring the pressure down and isolate those -- those barriers a little more?
GEN. SEMONITE: Yes, so I think we're still in the final throes of that. I did talk to my commander this morning up there. And part of this goes back to a degree of some of the equipment that is going to be changed by the Army Hospital that's there. They went in with a certain application of supplies. They have said there's some other things they need. I told you upfront that I don't get deep involved in the supply part, but I am aware that they have bring in some other equipment, either civilian equipment or some of their equipment, back in so they have more tools available to them to be able to handle the actual services provide for that particular patient.
On the actual air pressure on it, right now we do not feel that we actually have to change the air pressure in Javits. Some of the different tolerances here are relatively minor, and some of it has to go back to how insulated some of these are. In other words, if you have a place that when you shut the doors, there's a pretty good vacuum and you don't have a lot of air being sucked in or out.
If there's an area where you can actually walk in one door and then you have an area where you're kind of in an airlock, and before you go into the other door, there's not a lot of things we do there. So these real large convention centers have a great deal of utility.
And as I was briefed a couple hours ago, we don't see any significant mechanical changes we need to make. If there are some, this is something as simple as a couple of technicians going to the -- to basically the HVAC room and to be able to make some modifications more on the controls, kind of like turning your thermostat in your house versus going in and re-plumbing an entire, you know, entire, you know, mechanical room.
Q: Great, thank you. And then my follow to that question is so when were you able to realize about the -- the pressure and all of these details that you could have more of these massive convention centers be COVID? Was it when you were building the Chicago -- the McCormick Place Center? Can you give us more details on that?
And then my follow about something that you said earlier today, you mentioned the 9,693 beds in these eight active facilities. Can you give us a breakdown on how many of those 9,693 are COVID and how many of those are non-COVID? Thank you.
GEN. SEMONITE: OK. So on the -- when did we learn, we really got the Detroit and Chicago centers, you know, probably about a week ago. And I have to be honest with you, I was not convinced we could actually change the pressure in these large convention centers to a point that would actually achieve the desired results we're looking for.
When I was in Detroit the other day with the governor talking into the mechanical engineers, they -- our guys and their guys have done a phenomenal job of some relatively minor changes, and so that really has, I think continued, to -- to show us that these are a viable alternative. So when we go in now, we're trying to make sure that leaders understand that I think COVID is an option certainly in the convention center model.
There's another one, Carla, that we haven't necessarily done yet, but think about a field house without a great -- with a great big gigantic, you know, roof on. That -- it is not very easy to contain some of the airflow. So again, every single site we go to, we learn, we wrap that back into our analysis. But the convention center model, specifically Detroit and Chicago, convinced us that we are able to do what we need to do to be able to make that happen.
And then tell me your last question again?
Q: Thank you. My last question was on the –
sorry, thank you -- was on the 9,693 beds that are in the eight active facilities that you're building or that you've built, can you give us the breakdown on how many of those 9,693 are COVID and how many of those are non-COVID?
GEN. SEMONITE: You've got the chart, but I do math in public. It looks like about 2,060 of those are non-COVID, and then you change the ones for Javits. So when you subtracted 2,060 from the 960, you're about 7,640, something like that.
STAFF: All right. Our last question today, I'll go to Ellen on the line. Ellen?
Q: Hi, sorry, I had to take myself off-mute. You actually just answered my question. Thank you, Sir.
STAFF: All right. At this point, General, do you have any ...
GEN. SEMONITE: So I would just say that we want to be as transparent as we can. I certainly appreciate your flexibility and understanding that this is evolving, I told you -- 114 last Friday afternoon, 750. I don't know what the number is going to be next week or the week after that, but what we want to do is give local officials the decision space to be able to make those decisions and get those on the street long before I'm saying it here from the Pentagon, and we want to be as transparent as we can so you're informed of what's out there.
I want to reiterate a couple of big points. Standard design, every single facility we build, we learn more and more. We wrap that back into the standard design.
Decentralized execution, commanders on the ground have the authority without having to call Washington, D.C. to be able to make any of these changes.
And I want to give a shout-out to my team, 36,000 unbelievable Corps of Engineers. These guys are working 18 hours a day. They have been I think six weekends in a row now that we've been working, and they're in every single kind of facility. And there's nothing too small for us to look at, whether it's 100 beds or 3,000 beds, we're just as passionate about doing this.
And I can't reiterate again the -- the support I'm getting from President Trump, the administration, Secretary Esper of saying, "What else do you need? Give us your requirement so we will do whatever we can."
So I look forward to briefing you. I think we've got a couple more of these late next week. We will continue to put our products on. This is evolving. I hate to say it, I'm more focused on building beds right now than I am PowerPoint charts, so we will continue to be able to show you more and more. But let us know what your requirements are and we'll try to meet the media demand wherever we can.
Thanks an awful lot for being here. And -- and again thoughts and prayers of all of us out to all those that are affected by this.