U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Workers prepare the flooring inside a climate-controlled tent under construction at SUNY, Stony Brook.

Corps Update: 16 More Emergency Projects Completed

April 27, 2020
Accelerating its speed of delivery nationally, the Corps of Engineers continued to add hospital capacity by converting arenas, convention centers, school gyms, etc.

Washington DC, April 27, 2020 | Between Monday, April 17, and Monday, April 27, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished 16 more alternate care sites across the U.S. in response to the COVID-19 crisis. That brings the total number of completed projects to 20, with 12 more remaining to be done under the Army Corps's ongoing emergency program.  

Today, the Corps posted this update on its website...

NEW YORK SNAPSHOT by JoAnne Castagna, Ed.D.:

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) surprised us all, especially our nation’s hospital system, not prepared for a pandemic. Hospitals throughout the United States, especially in New York State, are overwhelmed with patients with Coronavirus symptoms and can’t provide them beds.

“We’re inundated!” said Tara Clampett, Intensive Care Unit, Registered Nurse with Long Island Community Hospital. “A majority of them are going into respiratory distress and are being intubated. Even if they get stable, many aren’t stable enough to leave.”

She says that with many Coronavirus patients coming to the hospital, this leaves less space for patients with other health conditions, so less attention will be given to their health issues.

The hospital did all it could do to create more patient space, but it is not enough.

To relieve the burden of New York State hospitals, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is collaborating with other agencies to convert existing buildings into alternate care facilities to provide hospitals extra space to care for Coronavirus and non-Coronavirus patients.

“What the Army Corps is doing is making me hopeful. We are overwhelmed and we can use all the help we can get,” said Clampett.

The Army Corps is performing this work as part of a national Federal Emergency Management Agency mission. The Army Corps is working in collaboration with FEMA, Department of Defense, and other federal, state and local partners.

In New York State, this work is considered especially critical. The state, primarily New York City, is considered the epicenter in the Nation. There are more virus cases and deaths in the state than anywhere else in the Nation. At the time of this article’s publishing there were 222,284 cases and 14,636 deaths.

To accommodate all of these cases, it is estimated that the state may need more than 100,000 hospital beds for Coronavirus patients, compared to the state’s current capacity of 53,000 beds.

To help New York State hospitals deal with this, Army Corps’ New York District volunteers are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They are locating existing buildings that can be converted into these alternate care facilities and then they are designing and constructing them.

Four key locations have been identified and they include the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY, Stony Brook University (see below) in Stony Brook, NY, and the State University of New York in Old Westbury, NY.

The first alternate care facility to be constructed -- and completed in one week -- was the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, located in midtown New York City. The center is a well-known location for expos and other large business events.

The center’s great size of 1,800,000-square-feet, seemed like a good location for an alternate care facility.

The Army Corps converted the center’s multiple floors of space into an alternate care facility, providing beds for more than 2,500 Coronavirus and non-Coronavirus patients.

The facility was designed and constructed to resemble a hospital setting. There are rows of individual patient care units or rooms that include beds, privacy curtains, medical supplies and equipment. In addition, there is overhead lighting, restrooms, showers, nursing stations, food service and an computer station, powered by multiple generators.

While touring the center, Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said that in order to quickly and efficiently get these centers up and running for a peak in Coronavirus cases, a “super simple solution” had to be applied.

He said the Javits Center’s design will serve as the model for other care facilities being constructed throughout the nation.

Charles Paray, Lead Architect, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “I volunteered to work on Jacob Javits and the other alternate care locations because I thought I could help make a difference.”

For more on this story, and other national updates, click here.