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'We hope we never need this facility' | Washington Convention Center transforms into extra COVID-19 hospital

The Convention Center has 437 beds in preparation for a possible coronavirus surge, and will be staffed by MedStar Health.

WASHINGTON — The new halls and hospital rooms evoke images from Wuhan and Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center in the early days of the crisis – rows of white identical 10 X 10 ft. rooms that the nation’s capital hopes to never fill.

But 22 days after the initial announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser toured journalists through a re-converted Walter E. Convention Center, a structure now replete with 437 beds ready for a possible coronavirus surge.

"Our hope is that as Washingtonians continue working together to blunt the spread of COVID-19, we never get to the point of needing to use this site," Bowser said. "But if we end up needing additional hospital capacity, these beds are here and ready for patients." 

RELATED: DC coronavirus updates: Mayor Bowser unveils DC Convention Center transformation to field hospital

MedStar Health will provide the medical staffing needed for the alternate care site, operating in coordination with the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and D.C. Department of Health.

Credit: WUS9
MedStar Health will provide staffing for the makeshift hospital.

If hospitals throughout the District approach capacity, patients requiring moderate levels of care will be admitted to the convention center, District officials said.

Hospitalization data suggest health care centers throughout the capital are not currently overwhelmed. But current data also indicate the city may not have seen its peak in COVID-19 cases yet.

"This will free up space in our hospitals to care for the most critically sick patients," Dr. Jack Sava, chair of surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the lead of the convention center’s medical team, said. "We are proud to be a part of this historic public health effort, and we are proud of all the MedStar Health doctors, nurses and others who have been at the forefront of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic." 

Features of the Convention Center Site:

  • Available to recovering COVID-19 patients with less severe symptoms
  • Patients must be age 18 or over
  • Each patient will receive treatment in a private room with a bed, toiletries, and access to hot showers.
  • Six additional rooms are available for rapid response for patients whose symptoms are worsening and could need to be transferred to a hospital for further treatment.
  • Staffing from MedStar Health includes physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, respiratory therapists, pharmacy, and lab technicians.
Credit: WUS9
"Our hope is that as Washingtonians continue working together to blunt the spread, we never get to the point of needing this site," Bowser said.

RELATED: When will DC, Maryland & Virginia reopen? Their epidemic curves can tell us

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