Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Corps of Engineers Rapidly Assessing, Building Hospital Spaces

April 8, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

At the request of mayors and governors from multiple states and territories, Army Corps of Engineers personnel are assessing or building structures for both non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 hospitals.

"The last thing we want to do is have someone die for lack of a bed space," said Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Semonite, who spoke with reporters at the Pentagon today, is in Miami, where he's working with the governor and mayors to assess and build hospitals.

The Corps of Engineers is pushing contractors hard to build quickly in hot spots, Semonite said. "We don't have time to deal with red tape and bureaucracy."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are taking the lead on where construction will take place, and they've been providing modeling updates that forecast where the need will be the greatest and where the number of cases have peaked. The Army Corps of Engineers is getting updated models daily, the general said.

The size of hospitals will vary based on the need, Semonite said. If fewer beds are needed, then a hotel could be easily converted. If the needs are greater, as in a metropolitan area, a convention center might serve as a hospital. But they take longer to convert, he added.

Semonite provided a breakdown of alternate care facilities being built, pending or under assessment as of today:

  • 834 of the 914 facility assessments requested  have been completed.
  • 23 facilities totaling 8,571 beds are pending construction.
  • 17 facilities designed by the Corps of Engineers with a total of 5,869 beds will be built by the states, not the Corps of Engineers.
  • 17 facilities with a total of 14,759 beds have been built by the Corps of Engineers.

In the next several months, Semonite said, 40 to 50 total facilities might be built by the Corps of Engineers, but he acknowledged that's just an estimate because it depends on the number of COVID-19 cases.

As of today, Semonite said, some of the facilities designed by the Corps of Engineers that will also be built by them are:

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City: COVID-19 design for 2,100 beds, 98% completed.

  • Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York:COVID-19 design for 110 beds, 15% completed.
  • McCormick Place in Chicago: COVID-19 design for 3,000 beds, 70% completed.
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook, in Stony Brook, New York: non-COVID-19 design for 1,038 beds, 26% completed.
  • Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois: COVID-19 design for 283 beds, 20% completed.
  • Metro South Medical Center in Blue Island, Illinois: COVID-19 design for 550 beds, 30% completed.
  • State University of New York at Old Westbury in Old Westbury,  New York: non- COVID-19 design for 1,024 beds, 8% completed.
  • TCF Center in Detroit: COVID-19 design for 1,000 beds, 95% completed.
  • Gibson Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico: COVID-19 design for 200 beds, 21% completed.

DOD Ramps Up COVID-19 Response Efforts From Coast to Coast

April 8, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

The coronavirus pandemic is slowing down a lot of things, but not the Defense Department's medical apparatus, which is now operating from coast to coast to bring its medical expertise and capacity to bear on the medical crisis around the nation.

In Seattle, the Army's 627th and 47th Field Hospitals are now fully operational and maintain a 250-bed medical treatment facility at the CenturyLink Events Center.
"We have an important mission," Army Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, commander of the 627th Hospital Center, said last week as the facilities in Seattle were set up. "We are expeditionary, we're agile, and we're responsive. We have medical doctors, nurses and support staff from all over the world. They mobilized in a moment's notice to support the American people."

In California, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived at port in Los Angeles 12 days ago and started accepting patients just two days later.

"I couldn't be more proud of our crew for all the hard work they did to get us here and ready in such a short time," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) John Rotruck, the Mercy Military Treatment Facility’s commanding officer.

The Mercy has treated 28 patients so far and currently has 11 beds occupied. If the situation in Los Angeles is anything like that in New York, where the hospital ship USNS Comfort is aiding the effort, then the number of patients aboard the Mercy will start to rise as local hospitals learn about DOD's capabilities.
Army Maj. Gen. William A. Hall, commander of Joint Task Force Civil Support in New York, said better communication between DOD medical professionals now operating in New York City and local civilian medical providers there have helped with that level of understanding, so the Comfort's patient count has gone up.

In New York, considered by many as the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States, DOD is working hard to crush the spread of the virus. A Pentagon news release said today that the department is "aggressively pursuing a three-pronged effort in New York City."

That effort involves augmentation of area hospitals with military medical professionals, the Comfort being expected to eventually have 500 patient beds, and the standing up of a medical care facility at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Both the Comfort and the Javits Center are now taking on patients with COVID-19. The Comfort has treated 58 patients so far, while the Javits Center is currently treating 104 patients.

More military service medical professionals are also arriving in or headed to New York and the surrounding region each day. Eight Army urban augmentation task forces began deploying yesterday, with four going to the Javits Center, three headed to the New Jersey Exposition Center, and one to conduct operations in Stamford, Connecticut.

An additional 775 Air Force and Navy medical personnel arrived yesterday at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, about 60 miles south of Manhattan, and will continue their movement to New York City to support relief operations there.

On the Gulf Coast, a Navy expeditionary medical facility is now operational at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and has started medical operations with the treatment of 19 patients. Also in Louisiana, the National Guard is managing multiple food banks across the state and is distributing more than 134,000 pounds of food at five locations.

In other states, nearly 24,000 National Guardsmen are joining the fight against the coronavirus as requested by their governors. Those citizen soldiers and airmen are focused on supporting community-based testing sites, creating additional medical capacity and providing logistical support such as transportation and distribution of medical supplies and food.

In Connecticut, Guard units are expanding hospital capacity across the state with a focus on creating space for non-COVID patients to be seen. In Georgia, guardsmen are deploying infection control teams to nursing homes, assisting staff with cleaning facilities and training on proper cleaning methods to prevent the spread of disease. In New Hampshire, guardsmen are supporting 14 alternate care sites with about 1,700 beds.

Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said that in addition to providing personnel to directly work with COVID-19 patients and to bring relief to communities where needed, DOD is one of many agencies and businesses working on the medical science side to find a cure for COVID-19.

"While the DOD emergency science efforts don't physically touch New York, they are taking place in our labs around the country," he said. "U.S. military researchers are at the forefront of vaccine and therapeutic development."

Hoffman said the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases began non-human primate vaccine testing April 6.

DOJ Agrees to Civil Settlement with Additional Firm Involved in Bid Rigging and Fraud Targeting Defense Department Fuel Supply Contracts for U.S. Military Bases in South Korea

South Korea-based company Jier Shin Korea Co. Ltd., and its president, Sang Joo Lee, have agreed to pay $2 million to the United States for civil antitrust and False Claims Act violations for their involvement in a bid-rigging conspiracy that targeted contracts to supply fuel to U.S. military bases in South Korea, the Department of Justice announced today.

The United States previously reached civil settlements totaling over $205 million relating to the conspiracy with GS Caltex Corporation, Hanjin Transportation Co. Ltd., Hyundai Oilbank Co. Ltd., SK Energy Co. Ltd., and S-Oil Corporation.  As with the prior civil settlements, this settlement reflects the important role of both Section 4A of the Clayton Act and the False Claims Act to ensure that the United States is compensated when it is the victim of anticompetitive conduct.

“Today’s settlement represents the final chapter of our efforts to use Section 4A of the Clayton Act to ensure that the companies involved in this conspiracy compensate American taxpayers for their anticompetitive activity,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division.  “Together, these are the largest Section 4A settlements in American history, and we will continue to use this important enforcement tool when taxpayers are harmed by cartels.”

“This is the sixth False Claims Act settlement arising from the bid rigging of contracts to supply fuel to U.S. military bases in South Korea,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Civil Division.  “We will pursue and hold accountable those who seek to defraud the American taxpayers, including those who conspire with others to do so.”

“You will pay the price if you rig bids and especially if you target our military bases while doing so,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers for the Southern District of Ohio.  “Today’s settlement shows that we will not stop until we hold accountable all responsible parties.”

The Department’s Antitrust Division today filed a civil antitrust complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and, at the same time, filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the lawsuit against Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee for their anticompetitive conduct targeting the U.S. military in South Korea.  The proposed settlement requires that Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee pay $2 million to the United States to resolve the civil antitrust violations.  In addition, Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee have agreed to continue to cooperate with the United States’ civil investigations and to abide by an antitrust compliance program.  The amount to be paid by Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee reflects the value of their cooperation, limitations on their ability to pay, and cost savings realized by avoiding extended litigation.  The settlement further provides that the United States, if it discovers any material misrepresentations in the financial statements provided by Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee regarding their ability to pay, may recover the full amount by which Jier Shin Korea or Mr. Lee understated that ability.

The payment will also resolve civil claims that the United States has under the False Claims Act against Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee for making false statements to the government in connection with their agreement not to compete.  The Civil Division has entered into a separate settlement agreement with Jier Shin Korea and Mr. Lee to resolve these claims.

The civil settlement was handled by the Antitrust Division’s Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture Section, by the Civil Division, and by the Civil Fraud Section of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio.

The United States’ civil investigation resulted from a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  Those provisions allow for private parties to sue on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.

The proposed civil antitrust settlement, along with the Antitrust Division’s competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register, as required by the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act.  Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement within 60 days of its publication to Robert Lepore, Chief, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 8000, Washington, D.C. 20530.  At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the court may enter the civil antitrust settlement upon a finding that it serves the public interest.