Detroit's 1,000-bed TCF Center is only treating 8 coronavirus patients as hospitals overflow


Detroit's TCF Center (formerly Cobo Center) has been transformed into an overflow hospital for coronavirus patients. - TCF CENTER
  • TCF Center
  • Detroit's TCF Center (formerly Cobo Center) has been transformed into an overflow hospital for coronavirus patients.

At a time when grisly photos showing bodies piling up at Michigan hospitals made national headlines, Detroit's 1,000-bed coronavirus field hospital at TCF Center is reportedly treating only eight COVID-19 patients.

The news comes days after the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers readied the convention center formerly known as Cobo Center into an overflow hospital to help Michigan deal with the surge of coronavirus infections.

Michelle Grinnel, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Econonomic Development Corporation, told the Detroit Free Press that it takes time to determine if patients can be moved from the region's hospitals to TCF Center, and says the convention center is expected to take more patients in the coming week. Patients can move to TCF only if they aren't seriously ill and in need of a ventilator, and 10 days after the onset of coronavirus symptoms and after being hospitalized for at least 48 hours.

A similar scene played out in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, when the 1,000-bed U.S.N.S. Comfort arrived to much fanfare, yet was only treating 20 patients days after docking. And in Los Angeles, the similarly sized U.S.N.S. Mercy had only 15 patients.

"If I'm blunt about it, it's a joke," Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York's largest hospital system, told The New York Times. "Everyone can say, 'Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.' But we're in a crisis here, we're in a battlefield."

Initially the Comfort was sent to take non-coronavirus patients from NYC's hospitals, and in fact was barred from accepting COVID-19 patients. But with the stay-at-home order in place, NYC saw a dramatic drop in injuries that would require a hospital. Within days, the ship changed its mission and began taking coronavirus patients.

Officials say that though Michigan's coronavirus cases continue to steadily rise, there appears to be a flattening in the number of new cases, which is also contributing to lack of patients at TCF Center. A second 1,000-bed field hospital at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi was scaled down in response, and a third field hospital at the University of Michigan was was placed on hold.

Experts estimate that Michigan could see at least 2,300 coronavirus-related deaths by August.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.