DETROIT (WXYZ) — Sunday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved the TCF Center to be used as an alternate care facility as the number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan continue to rise and local hospitals are running out of room.
The conversion of the convention center will be funded by FEMA and carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This news comes just a day after the North American International Auto Show was officially canceled. It's the first time in modern history the auto show has been canceled. The last recorded cancellation of any incarnation of the auto show in Detroit was during World War 2.
"The State of Michigan is working around the clock and doing everything we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in statement released Sunday afternoon. "We are proud to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and the TCF Center to expand capacity in Detroit. By mobilizing quickly to construct a large alternate care facility in Detroit, we can help save lives."
Instead of the hottest new vehicle and mobility trends filling the floor, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says 250,000-square-feet in the TCF Convention Center will be converted into 900 patient beds in individual pods along with space for medical personnel.
And the @USACEHQ said there are 7 locations being considered as temp medical care facilities in @DistrictDetroit @CityofDetroit including 2 @waynestate dorms and @DetroitPistons practice facility. They tweeted these pics pic.twitter.com/8DYwkZdLkm— Jennifer Ann Wilson WXYZ (@JennaWils) March 29, 2020
The U.S. Corp of Army Engineers say the conversion of the TCF Center will include two separate floors and patients will be segregated based upon severity of illness.
There are six other locations being considered as alternate care facilities, including the Pistons practice facilities and two dorms at Wayne State University.
Meanwhile, Delta is offering free round trip flights for volunteer medical workers coming to Michigan to help staff these new sites.
While the growing pandemic means the cancellation of the auto show and the loss of half a million dollars in economic impact, it’s providing much needed relief for local hospitals.
Chair Doug North is looking ahead to next year.
"We’re hopeful that people are healthy, people can travel next year and that we can not only exceed what we had anticipated in 2020 but reach all new heights in 2021," North said.
A statement from the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and TCF Center reads:
These are extraordinary times for our state and nation. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, TCF Center has been designated by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State of Michigan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a temporary alternate care facility in Detroit.
Mobilization has already begun and construction will be performed by the TCF Center workforce and union labor. The temporary site is planned for COVID-19 patients, relieving the burden on local hospitals treating patients with COVID-19. With guidance from FEMA and other officials, the site will be designed in the most efficient way possible in order to allow the convention center to resume normal operations in the weeks ahead when this crisis eases.
In addition, we have not lost sight of our clients. In collaboration with the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, we are working closely with our customers to reschedule events at a time most beneficial to them.
As we navigate this unprecedented time together, TCF Center is fully prepared to do its part in supporting our residents and community. We stand in awe of the tireless and dedicated healthcare workers and first responders who are true heroes of our time.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.
See all of our Helping Each Other stories.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.