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Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Atrium, Novant Ask For Field Hospital For Coronavirus Patients At UNCC

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UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte has offered six residence halls to help with the state's "planning and response for COVID-19."

Atrium and Novant Health systems are working with Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte to set up a field hospital for coronavirus patients in “a matter of weeks,” Atrium CEO Gene Woods said in a teleconference board meeting Thursday. 

Leaders from the two hospital systems sent a joint letter to the county Thursday requesting funding and resources for a field hospital on the UNC Charlotte campus as the systems brace for a surge of coronavirus patients.

“Our models suggest that the surge will occur between mid-April and mid-May of this year, depending on the effectiveness of stay-at-home compliance, among other key mitigating efforts,” Woods said. 

He said at peak surge, Atrium will need “significantly more” hospital beds than its current planned capacity and the system is in the final stages of determining the field hospital logistics. 

The joint letter said they could need up to 3,000 additional hospital beds.

Earlier Thursday, Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris became emotional while speaking to a committee of North Carolina state lawmakers. 

“Our ability to serve our community is going to be based on the support that we get from the federal and state government. We are going to be needing your help,” Harris said.

Harris told WFAE the county could need additional medical space if hospitals are overwhelmed. 

UNC Charlotte has offered six residence halls to help with the state's "planning and response for COVID-19."

And county emergency officials have previously contacted the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority about using Bojangles' Coliseum and the Charlotte Convention Center about additional medical space.

The CRVA said it was told by emergency officials that their facilities wouldn’t be used for patients infected with the coronavirus, but possibly for other patients.

Harris said Thursday that no decisions have been made about the use of space to help hospitals.

She said that "nothing is off the table as of yet," she said.

North Carolina had 1,857 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Thursday morning. Of that total, 533 were in Mecklenburg County. According to data released Wednesday, 26.6% of the state's ICU beds were empty.

In a letter to UNCC students, staff and faculty Thursday, Chancellor Philip Dubois said he has “pledged the full cooperation of the University to the county and state as needed in the days ahead.”

It’s a response that Dubois says is necessary for the school to repay the efforts of those who helped UNCC after a school shooting nearly a year ago, April 30, 2019.

“We also cannot forget that those who may need our help -- medical professionals, city, county and state officials, first responders, our neighbors -- are the same people who came running to assist us a little less than a year ago when we needed them most,” Dubois wrote. “It’s now our turn to help them.” 

A week ago, Mecklenburg County emergency management officials asked the CRVA if it had available space for possible sites to provide care.

Matt Westover of the Charlotte Fire Department said that the request was made to prepare for a worst-case situation, and that city and county emergency officials make similar preparations for hurricanes.

“We have to plan resources,” he said. “There hasn’t been an ask.”

Westover declined to answer if emergency officials have inquired about other buildings.

“We are assessing our resources throughout the city and throughout the county,” he said.

UNCC has said residents of South Village residence halls (Holshouser, Hunt, Laurel, Levine, Sanford and Scott) will be granted an exception to return to campus to retrieve any belongings left behind before they were asked to leave campus.

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