Second Mass. COVID Field Hospital Planned for Lowell, Baker Says

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to soar

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The Worcester field hospital being readied amid a second surge of COVID-19 will have "a lot more capacity" than it did when it was active in the spring, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday morning, and it will be ready to take patients Sunday.

"Field hospitals play a critical role in our preparedness strategy that helps us alleviate pressure on the health care system generally and enables hospitals to focus on non-COVID patients," Baker said after touring the field hospital that the National Guard is establishing at the DCU Center in Worcester. At full capacity, it is expected to be able to accommodate 220 patients.

Baker also announced he will have more to say soon about plans to establish a field hospital in Lowell in conjunction with Lowell General Hospital. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said discussions are also underway about whether to open another field hospital on the South Coast, but she said right now there are no plans to open a field hospital in Boston.

Including all hospital patients, 73% of the 11,000 non-ICU beds in Massachusetts hospitals were occupied and 56% of the 1,800 ICU beds were full as of Tuesday, according to the Department of Public Health. The northeast part of the state appears to be under the most stress -- its ICU capacity is maxed out and 82% of its non-ICU beds are already full. In central Massachusetts, 75% of the 1,200 non-ICU beds are occupied and 67% its ICU beds are full, both higher than the statewide average.

As of Tuesday, there were 126 people with COVID-19 who required a ventilator to breathe for them or to help them breathe, and a total of 1,259 people were hospitalized in Massachusetts with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker announces a new COVID-19 field hospital opening in Lowell, after touring another field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Massachusetts reported 46 more coronavirus deaths Wednesday and 4,613 new confirmed cases, the largest single-day total for the state since the start of the pandemic.

Baker cautioned Thursday that "one day doesn't make a trend," and said his administration will be closely monitoring the data over the coming days to see if cases continue to spike after the Thanksgiving holiday.

There have now been 10,588 confirmed deaths and 225,787 cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 236 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.

Baker said Tuesday that Massachusetts is not planning any additional COVID-19 regulations, while also warning of a growing number of coronavirus clusters in houses of worship.

He reiterated Thursday that he will continue to monitor the data and make his decisions based on the available information. He said if any new restrictions were to be put into place, the public would be given ample warning.

With the possibility of a vaccine on the horizon, Baker again said that there is "some reason for optimism." But he urged residents to continue taking precautions to prevent the cases from continuing to rise.

"There is still much work ahead to stop the spread of COVID from infecting more people here in Massachusetts," he said. "People need to stay vigilant. We're not ready to flip the switch to normal."

State House News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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