Colorado prepares for coronavirus peak with 'field hospital' at Colorado Convention Center

Hospital intended for 'convalescing' patients
Posted at 9:42 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-11 00:57:00-04

DENVER -- Governor Jared Polis wants Colorado to be ready for the projected peak of coronavirus cases in the state.

He said part of the preparation involves constructing two "field hospitals," one at the Colorado Convention Center, the other at The Ranch in Larimer County.

Both are intended to help "relieve stress" on front line hospitals.

Polis said at a Friday news conference the goal is to keep critical care beds, at the main hospitals, available for those who need them the most.

Two-thousand beds

Work crews are using metal studs and drywall to frame out 2,000 rooms, each expected to hold a single bed, on the second floor of the convention center's exhibition area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the project. Many of the workers are familiar with hospital work.

"A lot of our crew at the Corps of Engineers worked at the VA Hospital," said resident engineer Jesse Dalby, "so yeah, we've all had hospital experience."

The governor said this field hospital is where patients who have already been treated at a front line hospital, and whose lives are no longer in immediate danger, will come to convalesce.

"The hospital makes the determination that they no longer need to be in acute care, they can come here, they'll be monitored by nurses, and oxygen can be administered," Polis said. "We're taking advantage of the regular convention foods services, the folks that normally feed folks during a convention. They will be here."

The governor also said there will be showers.

Polis told Denver7 he doesn't believe all 2,000 beds will be needed, but he said it's likely that hundreds will be.

Dalby said the biggest challenge for contractors isn't the metal framing, nor the drywall, nor the electrical wiring; it's providing oxygen.

"We can't use individual oxygen tanks," he said, "so what we had to do was design a system to bring in oxygen for each of the patients."

The oxygen will be piped in to each room via hospital-grade copper pipes suspended from the ceiling. Individual tubes will connect those pipes to each room.

Major Christopher Mazurek said 250 rooms will be ready by April 18, and the remainder will be finished by the end of the month.

He said it will be up to the medical folks to outfit each room with beds and equipment.

Mazurek said it's much easier to convert a space that's not being used, than to build a field hospital from scratch.