The DCU Center, known for its wide-ranging sports and entertainment events in Worcester, Massachusetts, is set to open Thursday as the state's first coronavirus field hospital.
The makeshift hospital, which took about a week to build, contains 250 beds to treat coronavirus patients.
The arena's 50,000 square feet will be used to treat patients who are too sick to go home but not ill enough to be in the hospital. An estimated 10 to 20 patients are likely to enter the center this weekend.
Worcester health officials are predicting the number of incoming COVID-19 patients will outnumber the beds currently available to treat them.
"We really are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Dr. Eric Dickson, CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care. "This was an empty building, with 50,000 square feet of space, just eight days ago, and now it is a 214-bed hospital with six ICU bays."
The goal in establishing this field medical station is simple: to avoid overwhelming hospitals and their staff — and, most importantly, to save lives.
"I think as health care professionals, we all felt the need to contribute the skills that we have to this endeavor," former emergency department nurse Sheryl Banvliet said.
The building has six ICU beds in case a patient's condition gets worse and needs a ventilator.
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Officials say the peak in hospital patients and beds needed is expected to begin in mid-April. The DCU Center will be staffed with UMass Medical School students, who will be graduating early and eager to work.
The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne are also being converted into field hospitals in the state.
As of Wednesday, the state had reported 16,790 cases of COVID-19, including 433 fatal cases.