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Washington state returns 250-bed field hospital to FEMA

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that the state is returning the 627th Field Hospital at Seattle's Century Link Field, shown here on April 1, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Photo by Sgt. Jacob Banuelos/U.S. Army
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that the state is returning the 627th Field Hospital at Seattle's Century Link Field, shown here on April 1, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Photo by Sgt. Jacob Banuelos/U.S. Army

April 9 (UPI) -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced the state is returning a 250-bed field hospital in Seattle to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The facility, which began setting up on March 30 and was ready to see patients Sunday, was intended to treat non-coronavirus patients as area hospitals anticipated a surge in patients.

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It didn't end up seeing a single patient, according to KUOW of Seattle.

According to Inslee's office, the state has purchased more than 900 ventilators and added 1,000 hospital beds to support hospitals as the state experiences a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.

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"Don't let this decision give you the impression that we are out of the woods. We have to keep our guard up and continue to stay home unless conducting essential activities to keep everyone healthy," Inslee said in a statement issued Wednesday.

"We requested this resource before our physical distancing strategies were fully implemented and we had considerable concerns that our hospitals would be overloaded with Covid-19 cases. But we haven't beat this virus yet, and until we do, it has the potential to spread rapidly if we don't continue the measures we've put in place," Inslee said.

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Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan praised the decision.

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"While Seattle fought hard for these resources, it's clear other communities are in desperate need of this high-quality medical facility and personnel. This virus knows no borders, and we must care for the sick and vulnerable, regardless of any city, county, or state line," Durkan said.

At the end of February, Washington state saw the first U.S. death due to coronavirus, and the state was the site of the first significant outbreak in the country as numerous residents and staff at a Seattle-area care facility were sickened by the virus.

But the Washington's numbers have flattened following the state's stay-at-home-order, and earlier this week officials sent 400 ventilators to New York, where the number of cases and death is still spiraling upward.

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The Department of Defense awarded several contracts this week to build temporary alternative care facilities to supplement local hospitals' response to the pandemic, with officials expressing worry that by the time the facilities finish construction many areas will have passed their outbreaks' peak.

The DoD has also adapted some aspects of its strategy for responding to the virus.

The Navy hospital ships USNS Comfort and Mercy were sent to New York and Los Angeles respectively to accept referred non-coronavirus patients, but saw few patients initially.

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The Comfort has since adjusted its policy and Navy officials have said the ship will reserve 500 of its 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients.

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