Posted April 6, 2020
A Massachusetts hospital staff member demonstrates a piece of equipment as Matthew Tessier, Emily Pottier of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District and other hospital staff look on. The demonstration was part of a site assessment to address possible conversion of existing buildings into alternate care facilities (ACF) in Massachusetts, March 25, 2020. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District personnel are assisting the governor of Massachusetts and FEMA’s planning efforts to help shape future anticipated mission assignments for ACF support to individual states.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District (NAE) is not just standing idly by as the novel Coronavirus known as COVID-19 sweeps through our cities and towns. On the contrary, NAE has gone on the offensive.
New England District personnel from various disciplines to include engineers, architects, economists, contracting officers, and construction representatives responded to short-notice calls from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire state governments to provide planning support to create additional hospital bed space.
Since March 23, members of the Alternate Care Facilities (ACF) team assessed 22 state-identified surge locations in five states. Each time, delivering expert recommendations on electrical, HVAC, space layouts, and service-related requirements. In parallel, design teams, project managers, contracting officers, and legal counsel have been posturing us to respond rapidly when and if states request NAE support to build out those facilities.
“We’re leaning forward, ready to support during this unprecedented situation,” said New England District Commander, Col. William Conde.
From the time that COVID-19 first began spreading nationwide, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) stood willing and able to assist in this time of uncertainty.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to assist the nation in a time of crisis to the very best of its capabilities,” said Col. Conde. “We have received a FEMA Mission Assignment (MA) to provide initial planning and engineering support nationwide to address possible medical facility shortages due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Under the planning mission assignment, NAE teams are providing planning and assessments for the possible conversion of existing buildings into ACFs.”
During federal emergency declarations, USACE is the federal government's lead public works and engineering support agency to FEMA and the coordinated federal response; the Corps of Engineers is uniquely qualified to address this engineering challenge given its extensive experience building medical facilities for its stakeholders.
New England District personnel are working closely with FEMA and the governors from the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to perform site assessments of strategically chosen facilities to determine if they are suitable to convert into ACFs in support the emergency medical response to COVID-19.
“This effort is helping to shape future anticipated mission assignments for ACF support to individual states and hopefully free up much needed bed space in existing hospitals,” said Col. Conde.
As of March 25, USACE has received six FEMA Mission Assignments (MAs) totaling approximately $361 million, and has 15,000 personnel engaged or supporting our nationwide response effort.
In addition to supporting the New England States, the District is trying to do its part to prevent the spread of COVD-19. On March 20, the District began the process of an orderly shutdown of all its campgrounds to protect against the further spread of the virus. Visitor centers, beaches, special events, and sponsored events such as interpretive programs, Earth Day events, public meetings, and other public gatherings at District-managed facilities have also been closed and/or put on hold until further notice.
New England District’s Regulatory permitting program continues to operate in compliance with national, state, and local recommendations for social distancing. While the Regulatory office at District headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts, and field offices in Maine and Vermont are closed to the public, personnel are processing existing actions and new submittals electronically.
As the fight to eradicate COVID-19 intensifies, the Corps of Engineers, New England District will continue to offer its engineering expertise where it is needed, when it is needed.