Updated: April 14, 2020 10:02 AM
Created: April 13, 2020 10:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Army Corps of Engineers are transforming a Gallup high school’s gym into a treatment facility for COVID-19 patients.
Sixty beds will occupy the gym at Miyamura High School in anticipation of a case surge in McKinley County.
“It's a 14 day construction project. We came up with a very aggressive timeline with the corps of engineers,” said Lt. Col. Robin Scott, deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District.
The space is not considered a hospital, but an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients who no longer need intensive care, but still need a place to recover.
“The intention is for them to take patients when our hospitals become overwhelmed with capacity,” said Lt. Col. Scott.
Valory Wangler, Chief Medical Officer of Rohoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services, said all eight beds in the ICU are occupies and that they’re looking to expand.
“This virus is difficult to predict, difficult to know how many patients when, but from the estimates that we've seen, we feel this is going to be just exactly what we need when we need it,” Wangler said.
Officials with the governor’s office released the following statement about the growing number of clusters across the state:
“We are incredibly concerned about the clusters of illness and the rising case numbers on the Navajo Nation as we are about similar situations all across the state. The governor was in early and constant communication with Nation leadership about their preparedness and supported their government's efforts to impose curfews and limit movement, among other steps they've taken. The National Guard and the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department have been working together diligently to ensure food and water have been delivered to communities on the Nation. The governor has been a persistent advocate to the White House about tribal needs in our state and beyond and has initiated a coordinated regional effort with the governors of Utah and Arizona to work with the IHS and federal government to ensure tribal communities in our states have the resources they need.“
The state picked Gallup because they identified the area as a hotspot and are anticipating extra medical care will be needed. Nearly half of the positive COVID-19 cases announced by the department of health Monday were in McKinley County.
The USACE said setting up the school’s gym was no easy task.
“There are lots of agencies in the country looking for the same sort of supplies and materials so that we can all do what we can to fight this horrible virus, so it has been difficult to get materials. You can see the hand washing sinks we got are actually laundry sinks. They meet the need and we could get them fast,” Scott said.
Areas outside the gym were also transformed. What was once used as a snack bar has been converted into a pharmacy for medical staff.
“This is almost complete, so you can see each person will have a privacy pod built around them with a curtain they can close,” Scott said.
Scott said the design of the project had to be simple in order to meet the time constraints.
“That's one of the requirements if you're going to get something like that complete in 14 days. We've done as much as we can do to protect the gym itself,” she said. “We put a covering down on the floor. You can see the oxygen is run through the ceilings. We got power. There will be a big oxygen tank mounted outside and there’s some additional HVAC equipment on the roof."
The main treatment for the patients will be to get them regulated oxygen. Tubing that leads to a refillable 900 gallon tank will be able to hold enough oxygen for four days. The USACE said vents will pump the inside air out.
As far as staffing goes, people from the Medical Reserve Corps and physicians and staff from Gallup hospitals will be able to care for patients. The staffing numbers will be based on how many beds are filled.
Construction is set to wrap up April 20 and patients will be accepted 5 days later.
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