Coronavirus and the States: Governors Plan Field Hospitals; Heartland Unemployment Spikes

By: - March 23, 2020 12:00 am

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

Over the weekend, the Trump administration approved requests from governors in California, New York and Washington to declare their states major disaster areas. With that, the federal government said it would set up field hospitals in those states as soon as possible.

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Army Corps of Engineers had recommended locating four temporary hospitals in the state at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, and locations at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center. 

In addition, the Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort — a converted supertanker featuring 1,000 beds, 12 fully equipped operating rooms and up to 1,200 doctors and other medical professionals — will be deployed from its home dock in Norfolk, Virginia, to New York Harbor by mid-April, Cuomo has said.

In California, the USNS Mercy will be deployed to Los Angeles from its home dock in San Diego. The ship will provide trauma and other non-coronavirus services to take pressure off local hospitals, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor.

In the meantime, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state was procuring hotels and motels and opening previously shuttered hospitals.

In Washington state, FEMA said it would supply three large federal medical stations and four small federal medical stations with 1,000 beds. Earlier in the month, workers started building a 200-bed field hospital on a Seattle-area soccer field.

King County, home to Seattle, plans to build additional field hospitals for isolation and quarantine of coronavirus patients who either cannot isolate and recover at home or do not have a home, according to Sherry Hamilton, communications director for the King County Department of Community and Human Services.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, announced that a 250-bed hospital on the state fairgrounds in Salem would open soon to treat COVID-19 patients.

And in New Jersey, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli directed Inspira Medical Center Woodbury in the southern part of the state to reopen as a fully functioning hospital after it closed acute care operations in December. Renovations involving everything from HVAC repairs to installing a nurse call-light system could add another 300 beds in three to four weeks.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.