An analysis of federal spending records found that the U.S. government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on field hospitals to combat escalating hospitalizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many of the expensive field hospitals haven't treated a single coronavirus patient.
The report from NPR claims the federal government paid over $660 million to private companies for them to create emergency field hospitals. Many of the sites were convention centers that were already empty because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The report stated that nine emergency facilities had not serviced even one single patient as of Monday. Other facilities treated only a handful of patients. The TCF Center in Detroit had a total of 39 patients before closing this week, the 3,000-bed capacity McCormick Place field hospital in Chicago had a total of 37 patients before being phased down this week, and the Suburban Collection Showplace in Michigan has had a grand total of six patients.
The only facility that was used heavily was the field hospital at the Javitz Center in New York City that had 1,095 patients, but it closed on May 1 after it was no longer needed. Four other hospitals were constructed in the New York City metropolitan area. President Donald Trump also deployed the USNS Comfort to New York City. The U.S. Navy medical ship arrived in Manhattan on March 30 and departed on April 30 after it was no longer needed.
Months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of the field hospitals haven't been completely constructed as of yet, including the East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey, The Ranch Events Complex in Colorado, the Commercial Appeal Building in Tennessee, and the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
According to NPR, the field hospitals range in cost from $9,452,813 to $155,500,000 for the facility at SUNY Stony Brook in New York.
The Army Corps of Engineers started building more than 30 field hospitals in mid-March. The Army Corps paid at least $100 million in contracts for since-canceled hospitals at a horse racing track and a city park, according to Military Times.
The U.S. Department of Defense said that the Corps of Engineers is "working on 27 mission assignments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency" that will cost $1.6 billion.
"The agency is executing construction contracts for 17 alternate care facility sites in eight states — New York, California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Florida, Tennessee and Illinois — which will add 15,587 beds to ease critical hospital bed shortages," the U.S. Department of Defense said. "Contracts for 20 alternate care facilities with 5,033 beds are pending award. In addition, 17 sites are under consideration, which could add another 16,458 hospital beds."
Many of the temporary hospitals haven't closed yet because there could be a second wave of coronavirus cases once lockdown orders expire and businesses reopen.