US prepares to build hospitals as number of coronavirus cases climbs

19 March 2020 (Last Updated March 20th, 2020 11:12)

With the recent passage of a relief bill to provide free coronavirus tests, the number of people being tested for Covid-19 across the US is expected to increase considerably in the coming days.

US prepares to build hospitals as number of coronavirus cases climbs

With the recent passage of a relief bill to provide free coronavirus tests, the number of people being tested for Covid-19 across the US is expected to increase considerably in the coming days.

At the time of writing, there were 10,755 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US and 154 deaths, based on data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The Trump administration is already preparing for potential overrun of patients in hospitals, with federal and local authorities throughout the US working with businesses and the military mobilizing resources for a possible increase in cases of Covid-19.

President Donald Trump announced on 18 March that his administration is seeking to use the Army Corps of Engineers to help create temporary hospitals while authorities in New York City are working with the hospitability industry to potentially convert hotels into hospitals to ease the pressure on the healthcare system.

Since early March, hospital emergency rooms in New York City have began to see a significant rise in the number of people coming with flulike symptoms.

The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo called on the White House on 15 March to work with private developers and with construction unions to build new hospitals and turn existing buildings into hospitals for patient care purposes. It also urged the federal government to summon the National Guard. According to Cuomo, the projected peak for Covid-19 cases is some 45 days away.

As a result, the US military is already planning to deploy two hospital vessels to help cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The two ships, the USNS Comfort, based on the East Coast and the US Naval Ship Mercy, based on the West Coast, will first undergo maintenance and staff preparation and are expected to treat patients without the coronavirus in order to ease the pressure on hospitals.

While the US has an excellent health-care system, it falls short when it comes to its access. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US has fewer hospital beds per capita than most other western countries. The country has around two beds per 1,000 people; Germany, by comparison, has six while Japan 7.8. The US also lags on the number of doctors for its population, with 2.6 per 1,000 people compared to 4.3 in Germany, and four in Italy, where hospitals have had to erect inflatables tents in their grounds and patients crowd the corridors.