New Mass. COVID-19 Field Hospital Set to Open Monday in Lowell

Health care officials believe a post-December holiday surge may happen during the second or third week of January

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A new coronavirus field hospital is scheduled to open just days into the new year in Lowell, Massachusetts, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the state, resulting in a surge of hospitalizations.

The field hospital will open Monday at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, according to The Lowell Sun, which is later than originally planned. The site at the campus recreation center was supposed to open in a "soft launch'' for only Lowell General Hospital patients, with plans to expand access to surrounding area hospitals on Monday. However, staffing shortages forced the hospital staff to delay the opening, the Lowell Sun reported.

While the site has capacity for 77 beds, the facility has so far only recruited enough nurses to staff one 14-bed pod. Lowell General Hospital currently has 63 COVID-19 patients at its main campus.

Hospitalizations across the Bay State are up 129% since last month, according to health officials. With nearly 80,000 people statewide infected with the novel coronavirus, experts fear it could get much worse.

Although those numbers are staggering enough, many health care officials are still waiting for a post-holiday surge. They believe it could start in the second or third week of January.

At the field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester, staff are starting off the new year treating even more patients for coronavirus.

About 60 patients are currently being treated at that field hospital, which is a larger amount than they saw even last spring. The DCU Center field hospital only has enough staff for 100 beds, and they expect 75 of them to be full by the weekend.

Doctors worry the increased volume they're already seeing will only get worse when the post-Christmas spike starts to hit.

"We're seeing higher numbers not just here in the field hospital, but also in UMass Memorial," said DCU Field Hospital Medical Site Director Greg Leslie. "We're getting so many calls to send patients to other hospitals in the state who are dealing with the exact same issues."

State health officials say that if the new field hospital in Lowell is utilized, any patients would travel to and from the field hospital by ambulance.

Additionally, no patient or healthcare worker would have any interaction with students or campus community members at UMass Lowell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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