The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is known as D.C.’s chief venue for meetings and major events, but now it will be utilized as an alternate care site for city residents battling the coronavirus.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with members of her administration and federal officials, announced the conversion Monday at the convention center. Bowser said while she supports the convention center’s conversion, she hopes it will be used minimally at best.
“Our hope is that as Washingtonians continue working together to blunt the spread of COVID-19, we never get the point of needing to use this site,” the mayor said. “But if we end up needing additional hospital capacity, these beds are here and ready for patients.”
The site sits in Hall A, accommodating 437 beds, and can accept 100 patients starting this week. Patients who have low acuity of the coronavirus when the District’s hospitals approach surge bed capacity will be sent to the site.
The staffers at MedStar Washington Hospital Center have been tasked with manning the site. Dr. Jack Sava, chair of surgery at MedStar, said the site is “a huge commitment to preparation and public safety.”
“Preparing for the worst is never easy or convenient, and it takes a lot of discipline to build a hospital we might never use,” Sava said.