As its hospitals and health care system stare down potentially widespread strain due to the coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts is coordinating with the Army Corps of Engineers on emergency infrastructure for treating and quarantining patients, Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press conference Saturday.
The Corps, which has expertise in rapidly rolling out infrastructure in times of need, is working with the state to identify and evaluate facilities both public and private that "could possibly be either converted or modified to provide additional medical care capacity," Baker said.
Possible facilities include the state's many now-empty college dorms, and other large venues also not in active use due to Massachusetts' order restricting crowds larger than 25 people. Some colleges have said they are willing to have their facilities overhauled to aid the state's coronavirus response, Baker said.
Baker said he and other state officials participated in an Army Corps presentation that outlined what Baker called a "cookbook of models" for how existing buildings can be repurposed to support health care use. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also participated, Baker said.
"It's dizzying how organized and structured they are, because they've done so much of this," Baker said.
Right now, the state's discussions with the Corps have not advanced beyond selecting possible sites to further examine for conversion. "Step one," Baker said, involves allowing the Corps to visit those select sites to conduct in-person walk-throughs. The Corps must also audit each facility's readiness in areas like electricity and plumbing before pressing forward.
"Goal number one would be to basically matchmake a bunch of sites that we think might work with their folks on the ground who would then say to us, 'That one could work, that one won't, that one could work,' and then take it from there," Baker said. "I don't expect you'll see much beyond the process of actually trying to figure out which sites might be appropriate this coming week."