Combating coronavirus: VA orders hospitals to open to civilians in virus-stricken states

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The Department of Veterans Affairs is joining the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only to protect veterans but to help the American people,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said Sunday.

Wilkie is opening VA hospitals to civilians to take some of the burden off hospitals on the front lines.

“We are lacking in enough beds to meet the needs for COVID patients,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said Monday.

The Democratic New York Senator represents one of the states hit hardest by the virus.

The order opens about 100 beds in the New York City area.

“Could be overflow for New York hospitals and hospitals in other states that are in the peak of their crisis,” she added.

Beyond New York, Secretary Wilkies’ order also opens up hospitals in New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts and Louisiana.

“If the VA Secretary feels comfortable in opening it up, obviously they feel like they have the capability and capacity to take on patients, then I think that’s great for our country,” Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL-17) said Monday.

The member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Republican Florida Congressman said he’s been getting daily updates from the VA since the crisis started.

He believes the hospitals are in the position to take on this new challenge.

“It’s a great show of respect from the VA and our government to try and help people in need,” he added.

About 1,500 beds are expected to be available at first.

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