Pop-Up Field Hospital Comes to Life Inside the Civic Auditorium

Air National Guard members continue setting up the North State Federal Medical Station inside the Civic Auditorium. Photos by Jon Lewis.

The Redding Civic Auditorium is now home to the North State Federal Medical Station, a temporary 125-bed facility that will serve as an overflow option if hospitals in far Northern California become packed with COVID-19 patients.

The field hospital is one of eight in California established “in preparation for a surge of seriously ill individuals,” said Donnell Ewert, director of Shasta County Health and Human Services, on Saturday as members of the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard continued setting up beds and other equipment.

Privacy screens will be added before patients arrive.

A gown, soap and other supplies await each patient, including a coveted roll of toilet paper.

“We’re preparing for a time when the hospitals are full; we’ll move the less sick patients here,” Ewert said. The medical station will be operational on Monday but it’s doubtful it will receive local patients anytime soon. At a Friday press conference, administrators with Mercy and Shasta Regional medical centers said neither hospital was at full capacity.

Ewert said a similar 125-bed station will be established next in Butte County. Neither field hospital will treat coronavirus patients, Ewert added. The Civic Auditorium site is the northernmost field hospital and is intended to serve overburdened hospitals in 13 counties.

Donnell Ewert, background right, and Eric Saliba discuss plans as Air National Guard members look on.

Eric Saliba, a HHSA branch director, will oversee operation of the medical station. Saliba said the plan is to staff the hospital primarily with nurses and physicians whose clinics and surgery centers have been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus. Staffing levels will be determined by the number of patients admitted.

Operating funds for the field hospital will come from the HHSA budget and the county will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), spokeswoman Kerri Schuette said.

The 146th Airlift Wing, which is based at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, sent 30 men and women to Redding to set up the medical station.

Prior to the hospital arriving at the Civic, the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry had its 2,300 students switch to Internet-based home study. All student missions and ministry trips also had been cancelled through graduation in May, a spokesman said.

As of Saturday, there were 17 people in Shasta County who had tested positive for COVID-19. The HHSA strongly encourages people to continue following California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home orders. It can take up to 14 days before someone with the coronavirus begins to display symptoms.

For more COVID-19 information, visit www.shastaready.org

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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