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Miami Beach Convention Center To Become Coronavirus Field Hospital

The newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center will serve as a field hospital that will accept coronavirus patients. It's expected to be completed April 20.
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
The newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center will serve as a field hospital that will accept coronavirus patients. It's expected to be completed April 20.

The Miami Beach Convention Center will soon become a temporary 450-bed field hospital for a potential surge of coronavirus patients.

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“I would much rather be prepared for the worst and the worst not come here than not be prepared,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference Wednesday outside the newly renovated convention center.

DeSantis was joined by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is helping build this latest field hospital.

The target completion date is April 20, DeSantis said.

“Normally, that’s a pretty tough schedule and then they’ll probably exceed it,” he said during the news conference.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the $22.5 million building contract to Alabama-based Robins & Morton Group, according to  the Miami Herald.

DeSantis said 184 members of the Florida National Guard's medical staff will care for patients at the 1.43-million-square-foot site.

The field hospital is intended to alleviate a possible overwhelmed health-care system that has been bracing for a worst-case event similar to New York.

Gimenez said current hospital capacity in the county should be able to handle the projected growth in coronavirus patients.

“Unless there’s some exponential growth that I haven’t seen, then the capacity that we have in our hospitals should be sufficient,” he said. “But some models show exponential growth so we have to be prepared.”

The projected peak of COVID-19 cases in Florida is expected to be on April 21, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. That peak moved up from early May and projects 242 deaths in a single day.

Hospital capacity currently stands at 43 percent in Miami-Dade; almost 46 percent in Broward; and 49 percent in Palm Beach, according to the governor.

Elsewhere in Miami-Dade, the state had a Kentucky-based company build a 250-bed medical tent at Tamiami Park on the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition grounds. This field hospital would also provide a lifeline for local health care systems based on demand.

Another field hospital is ready in Fort Lauderdale, and the governor said another could be set up in Palm Beach if the need arises.

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Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.