Mayors running out of time to order temporary hospitals, Army Corps warns

The general in charge of the US Army Corps of Engineers has said time is running out for city and state governments to order makeshift hospitals in time for local peaks in Covid-19 infections.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite told reporters on Wednesday that the Corps needed at least three weeks to convert buildings into temporary federal medical stations like the one completed just over a week ago at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

"What we used to have is a month to build this and maybe a week or two for a mayor to make a decision," Semonite said, reports US military news outlet, Stars & Stripes.  

"I think that we will probably be done starting new builds probably in a week and that depends on what the curve is, but this is not just going to continue to play out."

Some 23 such projects are still pending a decision from mayors and governors. Semonite said some had been canceled because local governments found less demand than anticipated.

States face different projected peak infection periods.

According to Stars & Stripes, the Corps currently has 17 temporary hospital projects underway or finished across the country – in all, worth around $1.6bn in contract value – that together will add more than 14,700 beds to relieve pressure on existing hospitals.

The Javits center in New York is intended to treat non-Covid-19 patients.

Semonite said mayors and governors need to decide soon.

"We’ll continue to support this. I’m not going to say no. But at some given point this goes back to are you going to be able to get a facility done by the time you’re max patients," he said.

He added that hotels make for faster conversions than convention centres.

Image: Inside the first 1,000-Bed temporary hospital at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

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