Atrium and Novant want field hospital to be built at UNCC before cases surge

CHARLOTTE — The CEOs of Atrium and Novant said Mecklenburg County said Thursday they need 3,000 more beds before cases start to surge. In a letter sent to County Manager Dena Diorio, the CEOs asked for a field hospital to be built at UNC Charlotte.

The Diario confirmed the next day that it is possible that coronavirus patients will be treated on UNC Charlotte’s campus.


“We are very fortunate to have a community asset such as UNC Charlotte, which has a long history of not only serving the educational needs of our state, but also a long-standing commitment to the health and social needs of the greater Charlotte region,” the CEOs said in the letter. “Repurposing and transforming the UNC Charlotte campus as a field hospital is yet another way we can come together to serve our community.”

Read the joint letter to County Manager Dena Diorio here.

Atrium CEO Gene Woods says based on modeling, the surge will hit Mecklenburg County anywhere from mid-April to mid-May, depending on how well the community responds to the stay-at-home order.

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“The extent of how fast COVID-19 will spread and how many beds we will need is directly dependent on how well our community observes the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders in place today,” the letter said. “We continue to urge the community to do their part in flattening the curve. Without the cooperation of the public, the model we have today may change and demand may exceed available capacity sooner than predicted – and possibly at even higher numbers.”

[Atrium Health says ‘mobile morgues’ at hospital are precautionary]

Before any mass care facility can be built, a number of things must happen:

The priority is making sure the county has enough personal protective equipment, according to Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris. The county is burning through high rates of PPE due to an increase in testing, she told state lawmakers Thursday.

“Our ability to serve our community is going to be based on the support we get from the federal and state government,” she said.

To prepare campus, UNC Charlotte is clearing six dorms. Students haven't lived in them for weeks but over the next two weekends, they’ll be able to return in groups to grab any belongings still there. The six dorms being cleared are Holshouser, Hunt, Laurel, Levine, Sanford and Scott.

[UNCC evacuating 6 residence halls on campus to help COVID-19 response efforts]

Throughout the pandemic, Health Director Gibbie Harris has provided a steady hand and thorough leadership. In a call with state lawmakers Thursday, Harris teared up as she discussed the current situation Mecklenburg is in.

"I will tell you the numbers I am seeing right now based on the limited data we have and the fact this situation is changing daily is what is keeping me up at night," Harris said. "Sorry, I've done a pretty good job not being emotional about this up until this point."

County officials plan to release more information on plans for the field hospital in the coming days. A spokesperson for the county said the dorms will be used as a resource for Emergency Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard.