By Peter D'Oench

Miami Beach (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to be setting up a special field hospital inside the Miami Beach Convention Center before the end of the month in case there’s an overflow of coronavirus patients from area hospitals.

CBS4 was at the Convention Center just before 1 p.m. when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brought in an Emergency Operations truck to join personnel in Army fatigues. They are there for a site survey.

Gelber told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that it will have a lot of beds – perhaps more than the 450 beds initially planned.

“They are going to be 400 to thousands of units to help deal with this health care pandemic,” said Gelber. “The state Department of Emergency Management is going to build a temporary alternative care facility. A lot of convention centers around the country are having them done.”

The Miami Beach field hospital will be modeled after one at the Javits Center in New York City that was also built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Hopefully none of the beds will be used but this is a precaution and we need to be ready,” said Gelber.

The news comes after a 250-bed field hospital was set up in Westchester at the Youth Fair campus to be prepared for a possible overflow of COVID-19 patients. The county’s private hospitals have about 5,000 beds.

Gelber emphasized that there is a special concern in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach itself.

“Dade County is the hot spot in the state and even within Dade County there are hot spots,” said Gelber. “You are in a hot spot the 33140 ZIP code has the 3rd highest infection rate in the county. We have to prepare for the worst.

“I want to stress that it is a precaution. But we don’t want to be caught flat footed and turn people away when there is no place to care for them and when they don’t have ventilators and things like that.

“We have all been watching what’s been happening in New York City and we are preparing for it,” he said. “It’s not like it’s going to happen but we have to be prepared for it.”

Gelber says the City has to be pro-active.

“One of the problems has been the deficiency of information,” he said, “and the lack of testing and the lack of reliable data. It means like all over we do not know what is going on so we all end up responding after the problems hit a tipping point. What we are trying to do is get ahead of it. This virus goes weeks before anyone knows about it. So if you want until you see a problem you have waited too long.”

The work is reportedly part of a $22.5 million budget. According to the Department of Defense, the Convention Center field hospital should be completed by April 27th.

There will be a news conference on Thursday about the field hospital.

Meanwhile, a model designed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts the highest number for coronavirus deaths for a single day will happen on April 21st in Florida and that is nearly two weeks earlier than the originally projected date of May 3rd for the peak of the virus.

According to that data, Florida is not expected to face a shortage in the overall number of hospital beds but the state is expected to be short 769 intensive care unit beds.

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Peter D'Oench