ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Starting April 13, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be converting the Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus into an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients, officials said Thursday.
The group, out of the District of Alaska, reportedly received the additional assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this week. On March 26, the district had received its first mission from FEMA, with Army Corps officials inspecting the 196,000-square-foot arena the next day. After an April 6 request, however, state partners authorized the USACE to develop an area for 51 additional hospital beds and associated nursing stations in the arena, according to a release from John P. Budnik, USACE Public Affairs Specialist.
"If the demand for hospital beds exceeds this construction project," Budnik wrote, "then the FEMA mission assignment is in place to expand up to 160 beds with authorization from the state and area hospitals."
The Army Corps assessment team in Anchorage is one of two in Alaska, with the other based in Fairbanks. The assessment teams are meant to evaluate specific sites selected in advance by the state. A design team is tasked with applying the USACE design templates for "expedient construction at the selected locations."
Including Alaska, USACE Emergency Operations Centers have been activated at 50 different locations, with the agency receiving 50 FEMA mission assignments across the country dedicated to coronavirus response efforts. Those assignments, Budnik wrote in a release Thursday, total about $1.7 billion with more than 15,000 personnel involved.
Alaska District Commander Col. Phillip Borders said his district is dedicating what it can to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
"The team is working with federal, state and local partners to provide engineering solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"We are Alaskans working for Alaskans. We are prepared to tackle additional response missions in support of the state that may arise."
As for the alternative care facility in Anchorage, a construction contract for the development within the AAC is worth about $1.25 million and was jointly awarded to Alaskan companies Neeser Construction, Inc., and Paug-Vick Development Corp.
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