UMass field hospital announced, town Covid-19 cases climb

Apr 14, 2020

Town officials urged caution on Tuesday as the number of Covid-19 cases in Dartmouth climbed to 57 as of April 13, and as Governor Baker announced a new field hospital on the UMass Dartmouth campus.

Baker stated in an April 14 update from a new field hospital in Buzzards Bay that a 140-bed field hospital will also be built on the UMass Dartmouth campus. “We’re finishing work this week” on the hospital, he said. 

“We’re happy to partner with Southcoast Health,” stated UMass Dartmouth spokesman Ryan Merrill, who added that the hospital will be located at the Tripp Athletic Center on the main campus.

Southcoast Health spokesman Shawn Badgley stated that the hospital is expected to be up and running by the end of the month.

The health care provider will be the medical lead on the new field hospital, and will be sending its own physicians, nurses, clinical staff, and health care workers to run the facility, he said, adding that although the hospital may need to hire new staff eventually, it will start off mostly with existing workers.

“We’re supposed to have a projected surge coming at some point this month, and that’s guided a lot of our decision-making and planning,” he noted. “This is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in a century.”

“It’s a tremendous undertaking but it’s one that we feel is important for the communities we serve,” he said, adding that Southcoast is grateful to the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for making the project possible.

“And we are immensely grateful to Chancellor Johnson and the entire UMass Dartmouth community, because they’re being called on to play a crucial role in our region’s response to Covid-19 and to our region’s recovery,” he said.

Town officials wrote in an April 14 press release announcing the new Covid-19 case numbers that Dartmouth “continues to show evidence of widespread community transmission of Covid-19 along with Bristol County, Massachusetts, and the United States.”

The official statement went on to ask that residents limit travel to essential businesses to once per week. Essential businesses include grocery stores and pharmacies.

“Remember, no risk is better than minimal risk,” it read, urging restless residents to consider walking, biking, or exercising outside and to avoid group sports, playgrounds, and other high-contact public areas. 

“The peak of Covid-19 activity in Massachusetts is forecasted to occur in the coming weeks,” the statement continued. “The extent of the peak, however, continues to rely on your committed efforts in following best practices to reduce the spread of this disease. Your actions are our best defense against this virus – together from afar we can all save lives.”

As of April 14, there were 28,163 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Massachusetts, with 1,435 in Bristol County. 957 people have died from the illness in the Commonwealth.

This article has been updated to include statements from UMass Dartmouth and Southcoast Health representatives.