President Donald Trump claimed on Monday that the federal government had “built 18 hospitals” to deal with the surge in COVID-19 patients as the pandemic sweeps across the country.
But that only appears to be the case if you count several sites that will not be ready to treat patients for weeks, a TPM goose chase found — including nine sites that the Army Corps of Engineers said in a press release Tuesday were “0%” complete.
Progress photos for some sites showed nothing more than cavernous convention centers, with no signs of the medical facilities Trump said had been completed.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received 25 mission assignments totaling approximately $1.5 billion to design and build alternate care sites,” a FEMA spokesperson told TPM Tuesday, asked about Trump’s claim. “Currently, USACE is developing 17 alternate care facilities across 9 states.”
But the details of those “developing” projects show a network of field hospitals that for the most part are weeks away from being ready to accept patients.
A handful of sites were ready to accept patients this week but weren’t included in the USACE press release, including in New Orleans, Dallas, Santa Clara, and San Mateo County, California — but as best as TPM could tell, they did not bring the number of federally-built field hospital to 18.
Of the 17 “alternate care facilities” that FEMA and the Army Corps said Tuesday are currently under development, only one of them is actually accepting patients, the Javits Center in New York City. Another, the TCF Center in Detroit, was listed as being close to completion.
The Javits Center, originally intended to take non-COVID-19 patients from area hospitals to free up space for those suffering from the viral infection, took in its first COVID-19 patients a few days ago.
Press photos Monday showed workers erecting walls in the TCF Center, though the Army Corps said Tuesday that it expected the site to be completed by the end of the day. “95% complete; ahead of schedule,” a note from the military said.