(WWJ) -- Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says he and other officials are exploring the possibility of setting up a field hospital in Macomb County to help southeast Michigan deal with a shortage of hospital beds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking live on WWJ Saturday, Hackel said President Donald Trump's recent decision to approve Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's request for a disaster declaration in Michigan is "certainly good news," but the worst of the outbreak may still be weeks away and hospitals will become even more flooded with patients.
"In other words, we're not even at the peak yet. It's coming. Probably in the next couple of weeks we're going to hit our peak and that's going to be problematic for the hospitals here in Macomb County, southeast Michigan and throughout the state," Hackel said.
That's why he is working with state officials, the National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify potential sites where they could build or retrofit an existing location to be a hospital. Officials have said Michigan could need an additional 10,000 hospital beds statewide, while he has been told Macomb County could need about 2,000 extra beds.
Hackel says they are grateful for the disaster declaration, which can help provide more funding and resources to build such a facility. Hackel did not disclose any of the potential locations, but did tell WWJ they have identified multiple sites where it could be feasible to build or retrofit a hospital.
The latest numbers reported by the state show 620 confirmed cases of coronavirus -- the third highest count among Michigan's 83 counties -- and 20 deaths.
"The only way to help be part of the solution is for people to continue social distancing and limit your contact outside your home," Hackel said.
He's seeing Macomb County do its part in that, noting Saturday that traffic cameras at the county's Communications & Technology Center showed minimal traffic on the roads.
"People get it, and I think here in southeast Michigan, they're understanding this is an issue," Hackel said. "We've got to figure out, as the term goes, how to 'flatten the curve,' because the health care industry is just being absolutely inundated. It's kind of a sad reality what's happening in our hospitals."
Officials announced Saturday the North American International Auto Show, scheduled for early June in Detroit, has been canceled and FEMA will be converting the TCF Center into a field hospital. There will be an estimated 900 beds available at the facility.