Thirty-three members of the Montana National Guard were activated Tuesday to build a temporary, 90-bed medical facility at MetraPark as a possible patient overflow site during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yellowstone County and state officials.
The Guardsmen and women will arrive in Billings Wednesday and complete construction of the facility by April 28. It's designed to treat low acute, non-COVID-19 patients, according to a joint news release from the county and state.
Officials reiterated that Billings' two hospitals, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Health, have ample capacity, and the temporary site is not needed currently.
"While I hope that this facility is never more than an excellent training opportunity for our service members, the extra capability this facility will provide to hospitals throughout the region is a critical component of the Governor's plan to reopen the state," said Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn, the adjutant general for Montana and leader of the Montana Coronavirus Executive Task Force, in a written statement.
Yellowstone County has 73 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday and one death. Montana has 437 cases and 12 deaths. A total of 273 people have recovered from the disease, and Gov. Steve Bullock is planning to announce a "phased reopening" of the state this week.
The team constructing the care site is composed of 19 Airmen from the Montana Air National Guard's 219th RED HORSE Squadron and 14 Soldiers from Detachment 2, 230th Vertical Engineer Company and the 260th Engineer Support Company of the Montana Army National Guard. The group will include carpenters, electricians, plumbers and general laborers.
Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman posted the full press release on his Facebook page: