TCF Center field hospital closes after last COVID-19 patient is discharged

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The 1,000-bed TCF Center field hospital in the city's downtown is no longer caring for COVID-19 patients and is "officially closed down," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday.

At most, the care center inside the convention center cared for about 15 to 20 patients at any given time, the mayor said during an afternoon news briefing after noting in recent days that just a few patients were at the site.

The TCF Center treated a total of 39 patients from the time it opened, state TCF spokeswoman Michelle Grinnell said in an email. The convention center was transformed into a medical facility last month with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in just over a week.

"A large number of the beds are going to stay there on reserve," Duggan said. "Right now, things are going our way, but we if decide to abandon, with the warm weather, social distancing, we'll need the beds over at the TCF Center again. We need to be careful."

The TCF Regional Care Center opened on April 10 when Detroit was "on a straight line up" with its cases, the mayor said. 

A small number of administrative staff will remain onsite to facilitate the transition from an active field hospital to its "paused" status, Grinnell said. The decision was made based on health data improvements, including "a reduction in hospital surge capacity overload," she said.

The good news comes as Detroit, one of the cities hardest-hit by the virus in Michigan, has reported a decline in its daily death totals. 

Duggan said Wednesday that the weekly rate of deaths has dropped over the past month. There were 208 three weeks ago, 127 deaths the week afterward and 60 in the last seven days. 

As of Thursday, the city has logged 1,149 deaths from the virus. That's 21 more deaths over what was reported the day before. But Duggan said only six of the deaths occurred in the past three days. The city now has 9,592 confirmed cases. 

Dr. David Strong, chief medical officer of the TCF Center, said Thursday that the fact that TCF Center wasn't used to the extent planned is "a testament to the will and commitment of the local citizens in following the 'stay home, stay safe' orders put forth."

On Friday, officials announced that used N95 respirators can be delivered to Battelle Labs’ decontamination device located at TCF Center, which continues to play a role in virus relief efforts, Grinnell said. 

In Novi, the 250-bed Suburban Collection Showplace Regional Care Center will continue to accept COVID-19 patients from hospital systems in the region. It currently has five patients onsite, with eight admissions total since opening, Grinnell said. 

The Suburban center "has ample space based on the current capacity needs for hospitals in the region," she added.

The closing of the TCF Care Center means Federal Emergency Management Agency and military resources for fighting COVID-19 can be redeployed as needed to other parts of the state, Grinnell said.

On Thursday, the mayor also laid out six construction projects in the city worth about $120 million, including streetscape improvements and affordable housing units. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as of Thursday allowed some businesses to return to work, including those in construction and real estate. 

The will be 370 new housing units, and 46% of them will be affordable units, he said. 

Among the projects is the Roxbury Group's $22 million, 92-unit Parker Durand development in the city's West Village and an ongoing rebuild of the Kercheval streetscape.

In Midtown, Develop Detroit will resume work on a $36 million project in the Sugar Hill historic district. The project will feature 68 new units, 14 of them affordable for veterans, the mayor said. 

The $22.5 million Midtown West project at Fourth and Selden will bring 26 mixed-income units in its first phase and affordable housing in its second phase. 

"Across this city, you will see people going back to work on construction projects. There will be many more coming," he said. "We are going to build a city where there is quality housing available for people of all incomes."

The Neighborhood Service Organization is resuming its work at the city's old police precinct at Mack and Gratiot to provide a facility with shelter beds and permanent supportive housing units for the city's homeless. 

The Coalition of Temporary Shelter is carrying out a $15 million rehabilitation of the historic Imperial Hotel in Midtown to provide 56 permanent supportive units on Peterboro. 

The city on Wednesday released an analysis on the reliability of rapid testing kits being used to screen Detroit officials, public safety and essential workers for the virus. Duggan noted workers involved in the newly announced construction projects also will have an opportunity to be tested. 

On work sites, construction teams will be required to undergo temperature checks, wear masks and social distance. City inspectors, Duggan said, will be out verifying compliance. 

David DiRita, founder of the Roxbury Group, said construction workers "very much appreciate the attention on their own safety" and "the availability of testing" provided by the city. 

City officials said Wednesday that a sample of 50 patients who tested negative for the virus with the 15-minute tests from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories showed the tests were 98% accurate. 

Duggan added Thursday that "huge numbers of construction companies" are running employees through the regional COVID-19 testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds. 

The site has run about 25,000 tests as of this week between standard and rapid testing kits.

The mayor also weighed in on lags in the Ilitch organization's District Detroit project.

The Detroit News last year published a review of property records, state records, interviews and tax assessments that showed the Ilitch family enterprise has a dominant interest in the languishing 50-block area.

The mayor told reporters Thursday that Chris Ilitch, who heads the family-run conglomerate, might have been "a victim of his own grand vision" earlier on, but "did a nice job of doing a reset."

"I feel confident that the Ilitch organization has a realistic assessment of what they can do and that they'll stick to what they say now," he said.