The race to boost hospital bed capacity: Updates from 5 states

Many hospitals in the U.S. will face capacity constraints if no measures are taken to boost bed counts. Here's what five states are doing to increase hospital capacity during the pandemic.

Editor's Note: This is not an exhaustive list of measures states are taking to boost bed capacity.

New York

New York is projected to need 140,000 hospital beds to treat COVID-19 patients, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New York is working on several ways to increase bed capacity beyond his executive order to boost bed capacity by 50 percent.

A 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship is expected to reach the port in New York City the morning of March 30, according to The New York Times. The ship, called Comfort, has 12 operating rooms, a medical laboratory and more than 1,000 Navy officers. The ship will care for patients who do not have COVID-19, freeing up hospital beds in the city. 

Construction has begun on a 68-bed emergency field hospital in New York City next to Mount Sinai Hospital in Central Park, reports. The hospital is expected to open March 31.

The governer last week asked President Donald Trump to authorize four more temporary emergency hospitals to be set up in the state with help from the Army Corps of Engineers, and the president has approved the request, according to Market Watch.

The state already has four temporary hospitals, including a 1,000-bed hospital at Manhattan's Javits Center. The eight total temporary Army field hospitals are expected to add 8,000 beds to New York, according to Market Watch. 


California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the state will likely need 50,000 more beds to care for the surge in COVID-19 patients. The state is working to increase bed capacity in several ways. 

The state has spent $30 million in emergency coronavirus funding to lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles for three months. Both hospitals are owned by El Segundo, Calif.-based Verity Health System, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018.

The governor is also is in talks with Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health to reopen one of its recently closed hospitals in San Francisco to boost the number of patient beds in the state.

The U.S. Navy ship Mercy has docked in Los Angeles and is open for business, according to Navy news organization USNI News. Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital, is fully staffed with 800 employees and has 12 operating rooms, according to The Guardian. 

New Jersey

New Jersey hospitals will need 122,700 to 313,200 more beds than it has by mid-May to treat COVID-19 patients, according to an analysis from Rutgers University-Camden. State officials and hospitals are reviewing strategies to add capacity, including reopening closed hospitals or using college dorms as temporary sites to care for COVID-19 patients, according to the Wall Street Journal

New Jersey will get four FEMA field hospitals that have 250 beds each, according to NJ TV News. The first hospital will open at the Secaucus, N.J.-based Meadowlands Exposition Center sometime this week. The next 250-bed hospital will open in New Jersey Convention Center in Edison.

The state also is renovating closed hospitals, Gov. Phil Murphy said, according to NJ TV News. 


When Michigan reaches its COVID-19 case count peak, it will be short about 10,563 hospital beds, according to a new Seattle-based University of Washington Medicine study cited by the Detroit News.

The state has been racing to boost the number of hospital beds by scouting locations for temporary Army field hospitals, according to CNBC. The convention center that was supposed to host this year's Detroit auto show will be converted into a 900-bed field hospital. 

The state is looking for more care sites. 


Metro South Medical Center, a recently closed 314-bed hospital in the Chicago suburb of  Blue Island, is set to reopen to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients in the state. Before the medical center closed, it was operated by Brentwood, Tenn.-based Quorum Health. 

Chicago has reached a deal to rent out 1,000 hotel rooms through partnerships with five hotels to house COVID-19 patients, according to NBC Chicago

The city also it turning the McCormick Place convention center into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients, according to the Chicago Tribune. The hospital will have 3,000 beds, according to the report. 

Read more about the bed capacity issues here. 

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