Army Corps of Engineers commander updates on effort to help states build overflow coronavirus hospitals

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Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Wednesday that his teams are helping states quickly build hospitals to ease the overflow of coronavirus patients.

“We just want to do what we can to be a part of the solution here,” Semonite told “Fox & Friends.”

Semonite said that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking to help states across the country and is fielding hundreds of calls.

Semonite went on to say, “I never want to get in front of the mayors and the governors because they want to be able to set the conditions for the staff and the supply part. But we’re in California, we’re going big in New Jersey soon and we’re continuing to look at all 50 states and the five big territories.”


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at 114 facilities in all 50 states to convert into potential temporary hospitals in an effort to increase the nation’s hospital capacity in preparation for an expected influx of hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients.


Semonite said last week he was particularly “concerned” about the virus rapidly spreading to other areas of the country. He also announced plans to convert Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center into a makeshift hospital to treat 3,000 COVID-19 patients by April 24, at a cost of $75 million.

The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- which is working against the clock to convert existing convention centers, dorms and hotels into functioning hospitals for both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients before the outbreak reaches its peak and overwhelms hospitals nationwide.

Semonite said that their hospital build is 7-10 days, asserting that it is not "3-4 weeks."

Furthermore, Semonite said that they are able to “site-adapt” a standard federal plan to build a hospital in each city.

“We don’t know how many of these will get built up -- I’d like to think that hundreds of these are done by states writing contracts to their local contractors. You don’t need the Corps of Engineers to do this. Go find a hotel, go find a field house, and then figure out how to put in that capability in an existing facility. That’s the power of the plan.”

“We aren’t building in the middle of the field, we’re out their building where you have electricity, water and life-saving capabilities,” Semonite said.


On Monday, the largest temporary hospital yet built will open in New York City to non-COVID-19 patients. The Javits Convention Center is now a 2,900-bed hospital, each bed separated by curtains and divided into 10-by-10-foot cubicles. The space is equipped with nurses' stations and engineers are adding showers.

The Javits conversion is one of four temporary hospitals that will open in the New York area within the next two weeks. Three other locations include dormitories at two State University of New York campuses on Long Island.

Fox News' Bryan Llenas and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.