Washington Convention Center Transformed Into Coronavirus Field Hospital

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As parts of Maryland and Virginia got ready to gradually reopen, Washington, D.C., opened an emergency field hospital in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus cases this summer. 

One hundred hospital beds were in place Monday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown D.C. Rows and rows of "pods" were ready for patients. 

“We consider this site our insurance policy. We hope we will never have to use it, but it is here and staffed for when we do,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference. 

The Convention Center will start taking patients if the hospitals in D.C. reach capacity. A surge in hospitalizations is expected in June. 

The facility staffed by doctors and nurses from Medstar Washington Hospital Center will be able to treat COVID-19 patients who do not need a ventilator or intensive care. 

Each pod has artwork to try to keep up morale, and 100 tablets will be available for patients to get some entertainment and stay connected with family via video calls. No visitors will be allowed. 

In a break room where medical staff can decompress, workers who built the facility drew messages of support on a temporary wall. 

The facility took 22 days to build and has everything you would expect in a hospital. Up to 337 more beds can be set up if they are needed. One hundred beds can be set up within 24 hours. 

The District now owns all medical equipment in the facility. It later can be sold, stored or used elsewhere. 

There were two big questions facing the mayor on Monday that she did not answer. Her budget is due Tuesday and nearly a billion dollars in cuts are expected. News4 learned the release of the budget will be delayed until next week.

Also, the mayor refused to say what her plans were for extending or partially rolling back D.C.’s stay-at-home order, which expires Friday. She did say D.C. has seen no sign of a decrease in transmission of the virus. 

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