BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is set to become the second temporary field hospital in the state. It’s an effort to prevent local hospitals from getting overwhelmed with a surge in coronavirus cases expected over the next few weeks.

“For the next two or three weeks, this is a critical time for us,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Preparing for the worst, Mayor Walsh announced plans to transform the convention center in the Seaport into a temporary field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients.

Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (Image credit Nick Emmons/WBZ)

“Construction starts today for 500 beds for homeless adults both men and women who have tested positive and need care, but do not require full hospitalization,” Walsh said.

The 2.1 million square foot facility will also be able to have an additional 500 beds for the general public should hospitals need relief. As far as who will run the site, that’s to be determined.

“We have a request for proposal out right now for a partner organization to operate that section of the convention center,” Walsh said.

Just this week, the DCU Center in Worcester was transformed into a temporary field hospital with 250 beds for non-critical patients staffed by medical workers from UMass Memorial. Governor Charlie Baker said other sites across the state will also be opening.

As state and local leaders take the necessary steps to make sure our hospitals are prepared, Mayor Walsh is strongly urging everyone to do their part and stay home.

“I don’t want to issue fines, and I don’t want to send police officers out,” Walsh said. “But we are prepared for those steps because if we don’t flatten the curve now through voluntary measures, these steps will be inevitable.”

There is no word on when the convention center could be up and running.

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