LOWELL, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Just in time for a potential post-holiday surge of COVID-19, the state's second coronavirus field hospital is ready to open in Lowell on Monday.
The Recreational Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell's east campus is normally a spot for pickup basketball games. But right now, it's full of hospital beds and medical equipment.
If the Rec Center is utilized, UMass Lowell's Vice Chancellor of University Relations Patricia McCafferty said any patients would travel to and from the field hospital by ambulance, and no patient or health care worker at the field hospital would have any interaction with any student or campus community member.
"Prior to equipment being returned to the Rec Center in early February, the entire building will be thoroughly sanitized," McCafferty said. "The use of the Rec Center is a way for the university to make an additional contribution to fight the pandemic in the community while also minimizing the impact and inconvenience to students."
Dudley Abbe is the Vice President of Hospitality and Support Services for Circle Health. He had the experience of setting up a field hospital at UMass Lowell back in Spring 2020, but it was never activated.
Still, Abbe said he and his team learned some important lessons along the way, that will come in handy this time.
"We did create the pods in such a way that there's more privacy this time," he said. "We have curtains that they can end up closing in-between."
Right now, there are enough staff for 14 of the 54 beds that are currently set up, although they can surge to 77 beds total if necessary. Whatever the need may be after the holidays, Dudley said he and his team are ready.
According to McCafferty, UML anticipates returning the building to its original configuration and opening its doors to students by the first or second week of February, or earlier, depending on needed pandemic hospitalizations in the Merrimack Valley.
WBZ NewsRadio's Matt Shearer reports:
(Photo: Matt Shearer/Twitter)