900-bed field hospital will use 2 floors at Detroit's TCF Center for virus patients

March 29, 2020, 3:32 PM

Federal, state and city officials at TCF Center on Saturday, planning to set up a field hospital. Three more scenes are below. (Photos: Emily Schaefer/Army Corps of Engineers)

Fast-paced construction work begins this week to turn two floors of convention hall space into emergency medical wards with about 900 beds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is coordinating work to provide field hospital facilities for an expected overflow of COVID patients in April from overwhelmed Southeast Michigan hospitals. 

The corps' Detroit District "is well underway in its coordination and planning efforts to adapt more than 250,000 square feet of the convention facility into medical care space," it says Sunday in a statement.

“We are proud to work hand-in-hand with our partners at FEMA and the state of Michigan and leverage our engineering expertise to help save lives,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Turner, district engineer.

The conversion will include two separate floors, which will be segregated based on severity of illness. When completed, the conversion will include approximately 900 bed spaces and stations for medical personnel.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in her announcement of the effort: "We are proud to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the TCF Center to expand capacity in Detroit. By mobilizing quickly to construct a large alternate care facility in Detroit, we can help save lives."

The military branch "anticipates it will take 24 to 36 hours to place a contract, at which point the TCF Center team will activate their personnel to start construction activities. Actual construction is expected to begin shortly thereafter."

In related news, Macomb County executive Mark Hackel tells WWJ on Sunday that he's working with the Army Corps and Micchigan National Guard to identify potential sites for erecting a field hospital or retrofitting an existing location for patient care.

Officials have said Michigan could need an additional 10,000 hospital beds statewide, and Hackel said he's told Macomb could need about 2,000 extra beds.

Original article, Saturday night:

The feeling of a war-like atmosphere ramps up Saturday with preparations for something we've never seen downtown.

The 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been canceled because the Federal Emergency Management Administration picks TCF Center, formerly Cobo Center, to become a field hospital for COVID cases for at least six months, Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press reports.

The show returns in June 2021. 

The move comes a day after the U.S. surgeon general said the situation in Detroit will worsen next week. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday and Friday evaluated TCF Center and 14 other local sites -- including the Lexus Velodrome -- as potential backups to Michigan hospitals that might hit capacity due to an influx of coronavirus patients.

“The State of Michigan has asked FEMA for assistance in responding to a critical shortage in hospital space due to the spread of this virus," says Lt. Col. Gregory E. Turner, Detroit District commander of the Army Corps, who was at TCF Center on Saturday and his quoted on his agency's Facebook page "We're going to bring the full resources of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our engineering expertise to bear against this problem."

NAIAS executive director Rod Alberts says in a statement: "The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount. TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time."

An Army Corps photographer documented Saturday afternoon's planning visit, which included representatives of the Michigan State Police, state fire marshal and city:

Lt. Col. Gregory E. Turner (center), Detroit district commander of the Army Corps, leads a briefing at TCF Center.



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