Governor Okays BCEC As A Field Hospital

Gov. Charlie Baker has authorized the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to convert the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in South Boston’s Seaport District, into the second coronavirus field hospital in Massachusetts. Baker made the announcement last week in Worcester after touring the DCU Center, which is already being converted into a COVID-19 field medical center. The governor said he is also planning to put up field hospitals in different parts of the state, depending on the level of care needed during the anticipated surge in coronavirus cases.

“There are going to be, ultimately, strategies for the Cape, South Coast, Western Mass., Merrimack Valley and for Boston,” Baker said. “Each strategy is going to be based on the capacity that exists in each of those places.” Baker said he is developing plans to convert dormitories and hotels across the state to house health care workers. He also expects to use them for people who are in self-quarantine.

“We are basically in daily conversations through the COVID-19 command center and with our colleagues in the hospital community to determine where else we may need capacity,” he said. “Not just field hospital capacity, but also additional skilled nursing capacity.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that the latest models show that the coronavirus surge will occur in mid-April and the number of confirmed cases in the state could be as high as 172,000. Hospitalizations are expected to peak between April 10 and 20, he said. Following the lead of the DCU Center in Worcester, the BCEC is being turned into a 1,000-bed field hospital to help relieve the pressure Boston hospitals could face during the expected surge.

Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that part of the convention center is being used to build 500 beds for homeless people with coronavirus who don’t require hospitalization. Another 500 beds will serve as overflow for city hospitals, which Walsh said isn’t required at the moment but may be necessary down the line. “We’re hoping we don’t need it,” Walsh said. “We’re building it, and I’m hoping it stays empty. These are just for emergency purposes.”

New England’s largest Teamster’s union has been transforming the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center into a field hospital to serve as overflow for city hospitals during the coronavirus crisis. Teamsters Local 25 members in the Trade Show Division, who are normally setting up various trade shows at the convention center, are now creating a complete medical center and installing critically needed backup beds for those affected by COVID-19. Local 25 teamsters from Waltham Lumber are also part of the initiative and have been delivering building materials to the center this week in support of the massive effort.

As a frame of reference, while many convention centers across the country are having partitions erected inside as makeshift facilities to alleviate strain on local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients, Chicago’s McCormick Place is being prepped to handle only those ill from the coronavirus. Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago Division, is constructing the conversion in partnership with the Chicago Dept. of Public Health and contractor Walsh Construction. Reisinger said Halls A and C of North America’s largest convention center will not change much, with cubicles constructed within them to become rooms for patients that have very low acuity of the virus—meaning they do not require oxygen. Hall B requires more work for its 750 beds for moderate acute-care patients, with the Corps targeting April 24 to complete that area. Those patients do not require ventilation, they’re not in an intensive care unit, and they’re not being intubated, but they may require oxygen, and they may require oxygen on a continuous basis.