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University of Michigan contemplates turning athletic field into field hospital to aid in coronavirus efforts

University of Michigan Hospitals.
University of Michigan Hospitals. (WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan announced on Tuesday that is it considering turning an athletic campus in a field hospital for Michigan Medicine.

Projected to be housed in the indoor track of the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus south complex, the new field hospital could have 500 beds.

Through a video news conference, Chief Strategy Officer of Michigan Medicine Keith Dickey said the field hospital would act as a “step down” hospital for stabilized patients recovering from the coronavirus. This would allow more space for critical patients in the hospital system.

Michigan Medicine is anticipating a surge in patients within the next two weeks and is already trying to prepare. Single-occupancy rooms in the Regional Infectious Containment Unit are being converted into double rooms and more negative pressure rooms are being added. Staff are also being redeployed to new units.

The possible field hospital may be set up and operational by April 9 or 10.

Dickey said that Michigan Medicine has been thinking of other alternative sites for patients, such as dorms or local hotels as possible places for recovering patients who cannot return to their homes.

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During the conference, Associate Chief Clinical Officer for Michigan Michigan Dr. Vikas Parekh noted that although the number of COVD-19 cases is likely to rise, aggressive social distancing can have an effect and flatten the curve.

In a census model, Parekh said that the difference between less social distancing and aggressive social distancing can result in 65% reduction of cases meaning that hospitals would not be as overwhelmed.

“Aggressive social distancing is a complicated term but in its essence, it means staying at home except for urgent needs like groceries or picking up medicine,” said Parekh. “It means not inviting over neighbors, family members or friends who don’t live in your same household. It means keeping businesses closed. It means keeping schools closed.”

The goal of aggressive social distancing, according to Parekh, is to reduce the amount of contact individuals encounter so as to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

The Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus is on S. State Street.

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Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.