Stadiums put best foot forward as COVID-19 body bags pile up
Coronavirus cases have reached a crescendo the world over. COVID-19 cases globally have reached 1,607, 595 and body bags are piling up – the death toll stand at 95,785. As hospitals are overwhelmed due to the deadly virus, sports stadiums around the world are being converted into makeshift hospitals to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The entire sports venue sector is continuing with its humane gesture.
This is Part III of the series – ‘Stadiums as Hospitals’. The Part I was carried out in the ‘Coliseum’ edition dated March 25, 2020, under the title – ‘Stadia turn into hospitals to handle COVID-19 outbreak’ and the Part II series was published on April 3, 2020, under the title – ‘Sports venues world over pitch in to combat coronavirus’.
Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Washington Nationals, has been repurposed as a hub to cook and distribute thousands of free meals for people who are in dire need during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nationals Park is a baseball park along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
The endeavor is an enterprise between World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, and the Nationals’ newly-formed charitable arm, Nationals Philanthropies.
Media reports stated that the whole move has been made possible by the city making an exception under the stadium’s current lease deal by which Nationals Park is only supposed to be used for sports and entertainment purposes.
The first 1,000 meals went out on Tuesday, with production expected to ramp up to 5,000 by the end of the week and ultimately tens of thousands each day.
“We are stewards of this public building — it’s not used to play baseball now, so how can we use it in the best way possible?” remarked Jonathan Stahl,
Vice-President of Experience and Hospitality for the Nationals.
“Partnering with World Central Kitchen was a no-brainer. Our operations here are consolidated — we have very large kitchens and a lot of fire power where we can produce a lot of food quickly and efficiently,” he added.
Gillette Stadium, home arena of National Football League (NFL) American football team the New England Patriots, will host a series of blood donor sessions.
Gillette Stadium is a stadium in the northeastern United States, located in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Nine blood drives have been scheduled for April and May, with the first to take place on April 13. Gillette Stadium has teamed up for the venture with the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also in Boston.
A statement sent out by ‘The Pats’ stated, “Due to the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals across the globe have seen a severe shortage in blood donations. Donating blood has been deemed an essential service by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is still safe to donate blood during this pandemic and eligible and healthy donors are strongly encouraged to make a donation.”
Jacob K. Javits Center
The Jacob K. Javits Center is making headlines with the setting up of a temporary medical station to house non-COVID-19 patients and lessen the burden on local hospitals.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, commonly known as the Javits Center, is a large convention center located in Manhattan, New York City.
A tweet sent out by the venue read, “Our workforce constructs extraordinary events and exhibits throughout the year, but this is the first time we’re building a medical facility inside our halls. We’re honored to help New Yorkers in need during this global crisis. #covid19”
The 1.8 million square-feet venue will comprise 1,000-bed medical station for non-COVID-19 cases which will be overseen by more than 300 federal workers.
“I want to thank (IAVM member) Alan Steele, who runs this convention center. He has put on many shows before, and his team is very adaptable, but this is the first time they have ever built a hospital inside the Javits Center,” Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo told mediapersons.
At the Javits Center, which is expected to be able to lodge up to 2,500 patients eventually, they are looking to accept convalescent COVID-19 patients — that is, patients who are on the road to recovery from COVID-19, but who still need special care.
The Javits Center alternate care facility has 42 ventilators, with more on the way. It has a medical staff of 917.
The addition is called the New York Medical Station at the Javits Center and serves as an overflow hospital to treat non-COVID-19 illnesses. Overall, there will be four separate 250-bed facilities to help with the overflow from the soaring cases of coronavirus in the city.
The help from the convention center comes at a time when it is undergoing a massive expansion and redecoration that actually should help once the temporary medical stations are set up, as will upgrades made during the last major expansion in 2014 that included a better lighting system and new mechanical systems to make the acoustics better and improve air quality.
It also helps that the Javits Center enjoys enormous loading docks that will allow for moving in freight in rapid turnarounds.
When everything is in place, an additional 2,000 beds will be available to take the pressure off New York’s hospitals which are already groaning under receiving patients in huge numbers.
The US is fighting a bitter battle against the deadly virus with the total number of coronavirus cases having reached 468,887 and the number of deaths stand at 16,697.
The Estádio Nacional in Costa Rica is being offered as a COVID-19 response hub.
The stadium which can accommodate up to 35,000 spectators sits in the capital city of San Jose and is a member of the Municipal Commission of Emergencies comprising the Ministry of Health, Fire Department and Red Cross, which means it can be employed as a first response shelter.
Minister of Sports, Hernán Solano, told mediapersons, “Since it was built, it was thought that the Estádio Nacional could be utilized in the event of an emergency because the stadium has a hotel in which more than 400 people can enter, something that no other stadium in the country has.”
Solano also informed that the Estádio Nacional holds an advantage as it is close to metropolitan hospitals.
To date, Costa Rica has 502 cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths.
The Jamaican Government has greenlighted a plan for the National Arena to be remodeled as a field hospital during COVID-19.
The National Stadium is chiefly used for football (being the home field of the Jamaica Football Federation) but is also considered the apex of athletic competition in the West Indies being home to Jamaica’s national athletic team for the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.
The venue, which forms part of Kingston’s Independence Park sports complex, will fit in 72 beds with the Jamaica Defence Force drafted in to help the J$182m (£1.09m/€1.24m/$1.34m) transformation plan.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, informed that the facility will be used as an isolation unit. She added, “It would be confirmed cases and mildly symptomatic persons. We are reserving the hospitals for moderate to severely ill persons.”
To date, 63 coronavirus cases have been reported in Jamaica and 4 deaths.
United Kingdom (UK)
Commonwealth Games venues
The 2002 and 2014 Commonwealth Games venues in Manchester and Glasgow in UK, respectively, will be converted to hospitals to help in the fight against dreaded COVID-19. The facilities which have been set up for the 2022 edition of the event in Birmingham are also set to be offered up.
In Glasgow, the host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, a building is being set up on a temporary National Health Service (NHS) Scotland hospital at the city’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC). The SEC includes the SSE Hydro arena, which staged netball and gymnastics events during the Games, and the SEC Armadillo, in which weightlifting events were held.
Over 400 contractors are working together and in cooperation with nearly 150 NHS Scotland clinicians and operational staff to establish the hospital which will be known as the NHS Louisa Jordan. Initially, 300 beds will be provided at the hospital to help protect Scotland’s NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main players involved in the construction of the facility are Balfour Beatty, GRAHAM, Kier Group and Robertson Group.
Manchester Central Convention Complex
In Manchester, which played host to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a new hospital facility named ‘Nightingale for the North’ is being set up at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, which staged gymnastics, weightlifting, judo and wrestling during the multisport event.
The Manchester facility is all set to open on April 12 and will accommodate up to 500 beds.
“It will be a step-down hospital so it will not be for intensive care cases. It will enjoy 500 beds and will serve the whole of the north west,” Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese told mediapersons.
He added, “That’s to try and ensure that the capacity that we do have in our existing hospitals can be maximized for intensive care use and minimized for other uses over the period of time we are going to go through, because we are some weeks away from the peak of cases before we expect it to flatten out.”
National Exhibition Centre (NEC)
Meanwhile, in Birmingham, the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, a Nightingale Hospital is set to go into stream at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) by April 12. The NEC is adjacent to Birmingham Airport.
Media reports stated that the site will initially have capacity for 500 beds and, if required, it will be scaled up to about 1,500 or more.
The NEC will launch badminton, boxing, table tennis, weightlifting and netball events during the Games.
Edgbaston Cricket Ground
Edgbaston Cricket Ground, also known as the County Ground or Edgbaston Stadium, is a cricket ground in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, England. Edgbaston, which will hold cricket matches during the Commonwealth Games, will serve as a drive-through COVID-19 testing station. Edgbaston will regularly test NHS staff working in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region in UK.
Ashton Gate Stadium
A mobile Bristol Ambulance crew has positioned itself at Ashton Gate Stadium where University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust NHS staff are now able to take a COVID-19 swab test.
Ashton Gate is a stadium in Ashton Gate, Bristol, England, and boasts an all-seated capacity of 27,000.
The ‘drive-thru’ testing facility in the Winterstoke car park is only being offered to the staff of the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UBHW staff) which includes all staff working at the BRI, The Bristol Eye Hospital, The Dental Hospital, The South Bristol Community Hospital and Weston General.
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust was formed on April 1, 2020, following the merger of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and Weston Area Health NHS Trust.
As the mobile crew has been set up as a ‘drive-thru’ facility, people visiting will be able to take the test without having to leave their cars. Staff will also be offered a test at their home if required.
There are no walk-ups for this ‘drive thru’ test. Every appointment has to be pre-arranged through the Line Manager within the Trust.
To date, the United Kingdom has 65,077 coronavirus cases and the death toll has risen by 881 in 24 hours and now stands at 7,978.
Signal Iduna Park
Bundesliga soccer club Borussia Dortmund is providing Germany’s largest soccer stadium – Signal Iduna Park – for the fight against novel coronavirus.
Signal Iduna Park is a football stadium in Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, which is the residence of Borussia Dortmund.
Germany has repurposed the Signal Iduna Park to better tackle the disease. It has been turned into a coronavirus testing facility. The focus of the Signal Iduna Park’s north grandstand will not be football, but the care of suspected coronavirus cases and patients with corresponding complaints.
The BVB has refurbished the area by teaming up with the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of Westphalia-Lippe (KVWL).
“Our stadium is the figurehead of the city, a fixed point for almost everyone in Dortmund and the surrounding area and, thanks to its technical, infrastructural and spatial conditions, the ideal place to actively help people who are potentially infected or overinfected by the coronavirus complaints such as respiratory diseases and fever. It is our duty and our desire to do everything in our power to help these people. In the KVWL we have a perfect partner at our side to lead this fight successfully,” noted Hans-Joachim Watzke (CEO) and Carsten Cramer (CEO).
“Sure, the idea is unusual at first – with fever and respiratory problems in the stadium for examination. But, in fact, we have the ideal conditions here: We were therefore very happy about the offer and the help from BVB,” stated Dr Dirk Spelmeyer, 1st Chairman of the KVWL.
More than two weeks back, the first Dortmund corona treatment center was launched at the North Clinic.
“The influx of patients there is immense – after only one week we have treated more than 1,000 patients. The colleagues really do an excellent job, but we noticed that we urgently need to expand our capacities,” stressed Dr Volker Schrage, 2nd Chairman of the KVWL, and board member Thomas Müller.
The treatment center in the Signal Iduna Park complements the existing general practitioner care (the general practitioner continues to be the first point of contact) in order to provide qualified care for coronavirus patients and suspected cases outside the practices of the registered contract doctors. At the same time, possible chains of infection can be broken because contacts with other patients, doctors and practice staff in the individual doctor’s offices are avoided. In the treatment center, the severity of the disease is assessed by a doctor and a decision is made as to whether the patient can continue to be cared for on an outpatient basis or whether he needs to be admitted to a clinic. Patients should also receive the necessary prescriptions for their medication and, if applicable, disability certificates.
The outpatient, new treatment structures in the Signal Iduna Park is devoted exclusively to those patients who are suspected COVID-19 cases and require treatment.
The corona treatment center in Signal Iduna Park is on the fourth floor of the north grandstand. The treatment center will remain open daily from 12 noon to 4 pm. Registration is not necessary.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Germany to date has jumped to 118,235 and the death toll stands at 2,607.
In several countries around the world, the homeless people have no option to quarantine themselves. However, some cases from Latin America – particularly in Brazil – could prove inspiring for other countries to chalk out similar strategies.
The sweeping stay-at-home directive applies best for people who stay within the cosy confines of their apartment. But, for people without a roof over their heads, it’s nigh impossible not being out on the streets and self-isolating from the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also hard for these people to practice social distancing as institutions which used to provide food and clothes to the shelterless people have closed their doors now much against their wishes due to the pandemic.
In such a grave situation, homeless shelters are the way out for many. But, with crammed beds and low sanitary standards, they are the hotbed to spread a fatal disease like COVID-19.
How risky it can be to go to a homeless shelter in these days is best demonstrated by the grotesque case of homeless people being assigned sleeping squares at a parking lot at Las Vegas in US.
Those 500 people were temporarily evicted from a shelter where COVID-19 was confirmed and were forced to sleep till April 3 on asphalt as they were being tested and awaited a safer shelter.
However, authorities in Brazil gird up their loins on seeing the huge risk of COVID-19 spreading among their homeless communities, and they acted early. As per official figures, the country has just over 100,000 homeless people, however soaring unemployment and scarcity of housing means that the number of people at risk of coronavirus and living in abject poverty is extremely high.
State of Pará
Estádio Olímpico do Pará
The State of Pará in Brazil was the first to get their act together, setting up large homeless shelters in mid-March, when there were only 13 confirmed cases Statewide. Homeless people were asked to come to local stadiums, where makeshift shelters have been set up.
This includes Mangueirão in Belem, the State’s largest stadium. The Estádio Olímpico do Pará in Belém, Pará boasts maximum capacity of 45,007.
Soldiers brought in mattresses and pillows donated by a local company, toiletries and catering, while local residents continue to provide other equipment and food. The objective was to create enough room for 400 people but in the end some 500 turned up. While everybody has been welcomed, leaving the place comes with a rider – screening on re-entry.
Similar steps were taken in two other cities of Pará – Marabá and Santarém (Estádio Colosso do Tapajós). Estádio Municipal Colosso do Tapajós, commonly known as Colosso do Tapajós or Barbalhão, is a football stadium located in Santarém, Brazil.
Stadiums enjoy the major advantage of offering vast paved spaces, mostly at least partly protected from the elements. They also have basic sanitary facilities, as well as showers. Though it is not the perfect solution at hand, nevertheless, it is much better as these stadiums provide a roof to the homeless segment – the vulnerable population who are otherwise out on the streets left to their own devices and is at high risk of contracting the deadly respiratory disease.
The coronavirus count in Brazil stands at 18,176 to date and the number of deaths – 957.
Brazil is not the only country to use stadiums as shelters. Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay, has also been used in a similar manner. However, here the shelter is limited to people belonging to the high risk groups – the elderly population over 65 – who have other underlying health conditions.
The Estadio Centenario is a stadium in the Parque Batlle neighborhood of Montevideo, Uruguay, used primarily for staging football.
Till date, in Uruguay the numbers of coronavirus cases are 473 and 7 people have lost their lives.
Best foot forward
The sports venue sector is putting its best foot forward during these times of coronavirus calamity. Either stadiums the world over are being turned into COVID-19 ‘drive thru’ test centers, hospitals or shelters for the homeless as stadiums world over are being called in to help a country’s medical system tackle coronavirus.
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