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D.C. has finished converting the Walter E. Washington Convention Center into a temporary hospital to address the surge in patients related to COVID-19.
The goal is to never need to use the convention center, because that’d mean hospitals are overwhelmed and cannot handle patients who come in to treat the coronavirus illness or other complications. Hospitals in D.C. have also added additional beds in their own facilities to prepare for the surge. If necessary, liaisons at hospitals will coordinate when patients move from a hospital setting into the convention center.
Medstar National Rehabilitation, United Medical Center, and both BridgePoint hospitals have already finished adding their total number of surge beds. As of May 10, D.C.’s hospital bed capacity is at 71 percent, meaning 1,775 of the 2,487 total hospital beds are occupied with patients. Of the 1,775, 416 are COVID-19 patients.
It took 22 days to design and convert the convention center to hold 437 hospital beds. It is ready to accept 100 patients this week. The convention center will not be used to treat the sickest patients who need an ICU bed or ventilator. The Bowser administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with other partners, finished building the temporary hospital on May 8, meeting the self-imposed deadline officials made a month ago. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay the initial invoice for the convention center and then send D.C. a bill for the shared balance. The total cost is $55 million.
“We are going to use it as long as we need it,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser during a press conference on Monday. She couldn’t say when the temporary hospital would be shut down. DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbittsaid she does expect a peak in hospitalizations in late May. If there is ever a need for surge beds, it’d be then. —Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
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This post has been updated to correct how the temporary hospital is being paid for.