Dispatch from Seattle, v5: What field hospitals look like

Over the weekend, I left the house for the first time in 9 days.

I’d been out for runs or walks with the family. I’d played outside with the kids. But, I hadn’t gone for a drive in 9 days.

I had heard rumors of a new field hospital getting built to provide overflow beds for COVID patients. And, it was supposed to be near my house.

When rumor finally became reported truth, I thought I’d take a look for myself. I wanted to fill up my gas tank anyway. So, the time seemed about right.


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So, my 13-year old son and went for a look.  We knew exactly where it was, afterall.  This was the same soccer field that he and my oldest daughter spend hours training for their soccer teams throughout the year.



The field is typically full of pickup soccer games or formal soccer practices, depending on the day.

On the day Saturday I took these images (March 20, 2020), the weather was beautiful and brisk, about 50F degrees. Normally, this meant the field would be full.  But, area residents are generally limiting any gatherings as a result of the COVID outbreak. A “stay at home” – meaning “shelter in place” – order has now been handed down, so those gatherings will be even more restricted.


Field hospitals like these are getting built all over the country.  Some are in major convention centers or public gathering areas.

New York is building about 1,000 new hospital beds in the Javits Center. That’s a massive number of new beds turned around in just days.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County is using the fair grounds for a field hospital that will house a more modest 250 patients.

The field hospital in my neighborhood is literally in a neighborhood, at a local soccer field, rather than some of these facilities in an urban setting. But, since most of the country looks more like my neighborhood than the Javits Center, it’s likely that these 200 bed stuctures may be popping up in your community rather than the Javits Center analog.



It’s not clear exactly how many of these are needed in Washington State.

There are reports of other hospitals or quarantine sites going up around the area. County governments are purchasing old hotels and trying to turn them around

This point is this: if our health care systems are going to get overrun, and it looks like they all are, then field hospitals like these will be needed to help meet the exponentially increasing demand.

If your community isn’t building one of these, maybe it’s because COVID will never make it to your community. Maybe no one ever wants to travel there, and no one ever wants to leave. But, if you’re like 99% of America, you’re likely to need one of these facilities soon.

And, if you don’t have one yet, it may be too late to avoid overwhelming your hospitals, but it’s certainly never too late to get going.

The lives that get saved may belong to someone you love.