The District is converting 473,000 square feet of Walter E. Washington Convention Center into a temporary field hospital to accommodate an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last Friday that the District will be constructing a temporary field hospital to house an expected 1,200 COVID-19 patients, in anticipation of a projected local surge in the outbreak. Approximately 473,000 square feet and three halls of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will be converted into the temporary facility. The construction will be overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the facility, once built, will be staffed and operated by MedStar Health. 

The field hospital will be constructed over the next 30 days and will operate on a "month-to-month" basis according to need.

The District of Columbia's Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency and the D.C. Department of Health are also assisting with construction of the temporary facility, which will accommodate 1,200 COVID-19 patients, primarily those who do not require ventilators or other more advanced hospital equipment.

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a venue for everything from pop concerts to national conferences, is owned by Event D.C, which also owns and operates other venues in D.C.; all events have been suspended or canceled until after May 15. 

Other states (or localities) constructed similar temporary facilities to meet the surge in demand for hospital beds created by the outbreak. Back on March 31, the Army Corps of Engineers requested the appropriation of convention centers, hotels, college dormitories, and open fields in order to construct up to 341 temporary field hospitals, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite told ABC.

New York's Javits Center, a field hospital built to accommodate 2,500 overflow patients, is one example. Others in New York, such as in Central Park, are milder operations—sometimes no more than wartime-reminiscent medical tents that are just enough to provide a sick person basic care and a bed to sleep in. Temporary field hospitals have also been constructed in Kentucky, California, Seattle, Michigan, and other hard-hit regions. Virginia officials are also working to identify potential spots for temporary field hospitals in Northern Virginia in light of anticipated strain on the health care system.

Construction on D.C.'s field hospital begins now as officials anticipate a surge of 93,000 coronavirus infections in the District and project infections to reach peak capacity in late June or early July.

Washington, D.C., has been under a mandatory stay-at-home order from Bowser since April 1. Last week, D.C. and Virginia extended the closure of nonessential businesses until mid-May. Friday's announcement of the field hospital construction came alongside Bowser's announcement that the District Public School System would continue "remote learning" (or stay closed) until the end of the school year.

“While our goal is to never use the Convention Center, we must have the capacity to support a potential increase in COVID-19 patients,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in statement, NBC 4 Washington reports. “We thank the Army Corps, FEMA, and Events DC for their continued partnership during this public health emergency.”

Thank you to the Army Corps of Engineers, our doctors, nurses, volunteers, and everyone doing their part to stay at home and practice social distancing.

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