Detroit convention center to become makeshift hospital

Cobo Center outside from the sky

A Jan, 14, 2019 photo shows the former Cobo Center, now known as the TCF Center, during the North American International Auto Show reveal week. (WDIV)

DETROIT (AP) — A convention center in Detroit will be turned into a 900-bed hospital in response to the coronavirus, the federal government said Sunday. Construction at TCF Center, formerly known as Cobo Center, will begin after contracts are wrapped up in 24 to 36 hours, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. The June auto show has been canceled.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer swiftly agreed to use TCF Center. Michigan, especially Detroit and surrounding communities, has been one of the hardest-hit states. It had nearly 5,500 cases of the coronavirus by Sunday and 132 deaths. Detroit residents represent about 30% of cases.

“The dire situation in Detroit is getting worse by the minute,” Whitmer said on CNN.

Henry Ford Health System said it had 507 patients at five hospitals as of Sunday morning, including 244 at its flagship hospital in Detroit. Beaumont Health is treating hundreds of people at eight hospitals.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


Family members said three clergymen have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Smith Sr. and pastor Kevelin Jones, both from the Flint area, and pastor Myron Lett of Detroit were leaders in the Church of God in Christ, according to the church’s regional office.

“I thought the world of this dear, generous man,” Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton said of Jones.

Smith’s family announced his death on Facebook: “What we know about the new coronavirus is that no one is immune to it.”

Western Michigan University said Bassey Offiong, a student from Detroit who was poised to graduate, died.


Whitmer, a Democrat, was asked on NBC’s “Meet The Press” about back-and-forth barbs with President Donald Trump, who has referred to her as inept. She said she has repeatedly talked to Vice President Mike Pence about Michigan’s needs and has a good relationship with federal agencies.

“We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus. And it is spreading. And it is taking American lives,” the governor said.


A popular hot dog stand in Grand Haven, near Lake Michigan, is closing until Whitmer gives the all-clear for all businesses to reopen. The reason: People are driving from long distances, which isn’t essential travel under the governor’s “stay home, stay safe” order.

“If I could serve only the Tri-Cities residents safely it’s a no brainer but I am not checking IDs. … So, be safe and if the kids get bored, hand them a rake!” Pronto Pups owner Carl Nelson wrote on Facebook.