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U.S. Army soldiers have been deployed to build a 250-bed, fully functioning field hospital inside a Seattle convention center to relieve the pressure on local hospitals buckling under an influx of coronavirus patients.
Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) near Tacoma, Wash., were working Tuesday to set up the makeshift facility inside CenturyLink Field Event Center, normally home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, for patients who do not have COVID-19.
The facility will allow local hospitals to free additional space for the rising number of patients suffering from coronavirus as the outbreak continues spreading in the state.
Nearly 300 soldiers have been prepping the facility for several days, installing nearly 250 beds, a lab, X-ray machines, surgery facilities and an intensive care unit, Q13 FOX reported.
“We’re excited to be here,” Lt. Col. Jason Hughes told the station. “We’re excited to come to my home state to help the American people.”
Pictures and video from the scene show hulking military vehicles hauling equipment into the event center. Soldiers are spacing out beds and unloading boxes of medical supplies throughout the massive area. Matt Markovich, a local reporter with KOMO-TV, tweeted video of a makeshift operating room.
Officials said that the field hospital is expected to be ready to receive patients next week. Soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital at Fort Carson will join soldiers from JBLM to staff the facility.
Washington is expected to get more field hospitals, KING-TV reported.
The military will set up a second location in Yakima, a city about 142 miles southeast of Seattle, Department of Health spokeswoman Danielle Koenig told the station.
Other areas of the state are being scouted as potential spots for field hospitals, with a total of eight expected, according to local reports.
The state also is adapting unused facilities, like the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, as quarantine sites for those who cannot isolate in their homes or who do not have a shelter, the Seattle Times reported. The arena, where hockey games and concerts are held, can quarantine up to 100 people.
Washington state took measures to limit the virus' spread early in the outbreak, actions that Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Tuesday helped mitigate the number of infections.
The disease had sickened at least 4,896 people in Washington and killed 195 at of Wednesday, according to the state health department.