April 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army awarded $10 billion in contracts Wednesday to turn existing public facilities into temporary alternate care sites amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Defense announced.The deal funds the rapid construction, design and alteration of large public facilities into care facilities intended to help hospitals deal with an influx of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with the $10 billion omnibus deal, the Department of Defense also increased the ceiling on an extant contract for a care facility in Stony Brook by $35 million, awarded a $15.7 million contract to supplement government physicians at military entrance processing stations and an $84.4 million deal toHelping Hands Service for healthcare environmental cleaning services in San Antonio.
That's just one day of large military contracts related to healthcare work, of which Military Times reports there are 17 on the books, including the transformation of New York City's Jacob Javits Convention Center into a 2,000-bed care center.
The Javits Center is finishing up construction, as is McCormick Place in Chicago -- but other proposed sites may not be complete until the end of April, meaning they may come online after the pandemic is expected to peak in many American cities.
"We're beginning to run out of time," Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters Wednesday. "I think that we will probably done starting new builds -- probably in a week."
Still, he said, the Corps of Engineers' efforts -- which are projected to add a total of 15,000 extra hospital beds to the system -- are worth it, he added.
"The last thing we want is to have somebody die because we didn't have the bed space available," Semonite said.
Originally, the plan for the temporary care centers was to take non-COVID patients and let existing hospitals focus on the pandemic, but officials have since changed course on realizing that one infected patient at a non-COVID-capable facility could shut it down.
Semonite also said there are 23 more projects awaiting approval -- with only "a couple of days left" to begin construction and get done in time" -- and those would add 8,571 beds to the system.