The event center between CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile Park — home in normal times to concerts, dog shows and boat shows — will soon become a field hospital as Seattle’s health care system girds for a continued flood of coronavirus patients.
The U.S. Army has deployed 300 soldiers to Seattle to staff the CenturyLink Field Event Center as it’s converted into a hospital with at least 148 beds, government officials announced Friday. It is intended to treat patients who don’t have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, to free up space in local hospitals for more virus patients.
The hospital is expected to be able to serve patients “soon,” according to a news release from the city of Seattle.
The timeline for the hospital to reach its full, 148-bed capability will be based on conditions on the ground, Stephanie Formas, chief of staff for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, said. Formas said that hospital officials think they’ll be able to provide care within three days of when all equipment arrives and should be fully operational within a week of getting the equipment.
The hospital will be able to provide emergency medicine, pharmacy, clinical laboratory services, limited microbiology capability, surgical services, and radiological services, Formas said.
“As we continue to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout Washington state, we also need to prepare our healthcare delivery system to deal with people who are sick, or may become ill, as well as all the other health needs of Washingtonians,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement.
The state has also conducted site assessments for potential field hospitals in Pierce and Snohomish counties, the Emergency Management Division of the Washington Military Department said.
Inslee said he was grateful to the Army Corps of Engineers and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for siting the hospital in Seattle.
Inslee has clashed with President Donald Trump in recent days over the federal government’s response to the crisis.
On Thursday, after Trump told a group of governors on a conference call that his administration was ready to be the “backup” for states in crisis, Inslee interjected: “We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady,” according to media reports. Inslee confirmed the dust-up later in the day, when he tweeted: “I would have said Russell Wilson…but no one can be @DangeRussWilson,” referring to the Seahawks quarterback.
“I want people to know that there is good communication going on with the White House,” Inslee said Thursday. “We are making suggestions, but I’m appreciative of that communication.”
On Friday, at his news conference, Trump lashed out, saying he advised Vice President Mike Pence not to call Inslee and implying that federal aid could be contingent on how Trump, personally, is treated.
“They’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative of the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA,” Trump said. “I say ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting time with him.’ If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
Inslee responded with another tweet: “I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy.”
Mike O’Hare, a FEMA coordinating officer, said on Friday that FEMA remains focused.
“Together with our local, state and federal partners, the private sector is playing a critical role in our united effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” O’Hare said in a prepared statement.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the new hospital is critical to the region’s ability to respond to the pandemic.
“We will work quickly with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to ensure that this field hospital is set up and ready to receive patients soon,” she said.
The facility will be staffed by soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado, who arrived Friday at King County International Airport (Boeing Field). Materials for the hospital will arrive by truck from Colorado.