By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Governor Ron DeSantis joined Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and the commanding general of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Wednesday where a field hospital will be constructed over the next 12 days.

Governor DeSantis told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that plans call for opening the field hospital a week early by April 20th. A tour of the Convention Center shows work has already begun with isolation pods being set up for the COVID-19 patients who would be there in need of acute and intensive care.

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DeSantis said “The facility will have 400 beds and 50 additional beds for intensive care for a total of 450 beds. The hospital will cover 5,000 square feet and we will be able to have 1,000 beds of there is a need. It will be staffed by 184 members of the Florida National Guard Medical team. Ten physicians, 19 physician assistants, 5 case managers, 5 social workers, 25 medical clerks, 25 housekeepers, and patient transporters, 25 EMT technicians, 2 medical assistants, 16 registered nurses and one licensed preventive diseases specialist.”

“In addition, we will have 200 beds at the old Pan American Hospital and we also have 250 beds in Miami-Dade,” he said, referring to the field hospital already set up at the Youth Fair Campus in West Miami-Dade. “Outside Miami-Dade, there are plans to set up 4 field hospitals as need be, in Broward, Palm Beach, on the west coast of Florida and in northern Florida.

“I would rather be prepared for the worst and the worst not come here than not be prepared,” said the Governor.

Watch Governor DeSantis’ press conference in its entirety

Lt. General Todd Semonite, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, commended those who would staff the hospital.

“They are the real heroes,” he said. “They are the people on the front lines like the doctors and the nurses who will be able to bring this forward and mitigate this. They are going to be instrumental.”

He said important lessons were learned by setting up other field hospitals around the country and said there would be challenges.

“What do we know about showers at the Convention Center?” He asked. “And what about the delivery of oxygen and the receiving and discharging of patients.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said “This is a facility we hope we will not have to use. We need to prepare for the worst with possibly a surge coming. Right now we have plenty of capacity in Miami-Dade and plenty of hospital beds and plenty of ICU beds and plenty of ventilators for what we think is to come.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, “We pray that it will not be used but we have to plan. We prepare for the worst and we pray for the next. We could not be ready if all of us were not working together.”

It will be modeled after the one built by the Army Corps of Engineers at the Javits Center in New York City.

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With concerns about the coronavirus spreading, the field hospital will enable Miami Beach to care for COVID-1 patients if all of the county’s 5,000 hospital beds are in use.

“So they will come in and they will put in anywhere from 400 to thousands of units to help deal with this health care pandemic,” said Gelber.

“Hopefully none of them will be used. It’s just a precaution and, at the very worst, we need to be ready,” said Gelber.

Particularly in Miami-Dade.

“Dade County is the hotspot of the state and even within Dade County, there are areas where there are hot spots. You are in a hot spot – 33140 zip code. It has the 3rd highest infection rate in the county,” said Gelber.

Gelber says the Army Corps of Engineers is here because the city’s being pro-active.

“So we have to be prepared for the worst. I want to stress it’s a precaution. We don’t want to be flat-footed and have to turn away people who don’t have a place for care and ventilators and things like that” he said.

Gelber said he was struck by the scenes from New York City.

“We are all watching things in New York and we are preparing for it and even if things like that are not likely to happen, we have to be ready,” he said.

The mayor says it’s important to learn lessons from recent weeks.

“What we’re trying to do is get ahead of it. This virus goes weeks before anyone knows about it, so if you wait until you see the problem, you have waited too long,” he said.

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Peter D'Oench