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Why was Spokane's Sacred Heart chosen to treat coronavirus patients?

Sacred Heart is home to a 14,000-square-foot Special Pathogens Unit, with 12 Airbone Infection Isolation Rooms.

Editor’s note: Above video from 2018 shows Spokane health officials taking part in a mock response to an infectious disease

SPOKANE, Wash. – Health officials announced on Wednesday that four patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, are being transferred to Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Two out of the four patients were transferred to Spokane from Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, on Thursday morning. They are in stable condition. 

Two more patients arrived on Thursday afternoon. 

Many KREM viewers have asked: Why was Spokane chosen as a site for coronavirus patients? 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose Sacred Heart because of its “secured airborne infection isolation rooms," health officials said. 

The hospital is home to a 14,000-square-foot Special Pathogens Unit, with 12 Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms and two critical care rooms.

The isolation units, which are meant for patients with infections diseases, are locked with negative airflow throughout. 

Sacred Heart says the Special Pathogens Unit also includes three shower rooms for caregivers. Its team consists of dozens of registered nurses and respiratory therapists, lab staff, adult and pediatric critical care intensivists, and infectious disease specialists, among others.

Treatment of coronavirus patients marks the first time Sacred Heart has used the Special Pathogens Unit to treat patients in this capacity, health officials said on Thursday. 

Health officials said on Thursday that isolation room staff will wear fluid impermeable gowns, gloves and N-95 filtration masks with a face shield, and will use powered air purifying respirators.  

Sacred Heart was designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 as one of 10 regional treatment centers in the country, serving Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.

Federal officials announced in 2015 that Washington would receive a five-year grant to help prepare the Special Pathogens Unit. The team has since been training to care for patients. 

The state Department of Health said it would use the first year's installment of $2.4 million to build capacity at Sacred Heart.

The first year's grant was followed by smaller amounts in the next four years, totaling $3.25 to $4.6 million.

RELATED: Sacred Heart gets $2.4 million for Ebola preparations

The other treatment centers are located in Boston; New York City; Baltimore; Atlanta; Minneapolis; Galveston, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver; and Los Angeles.

In 2017, the unit at Sacred Heart was used as the site of a simulation for an Ebola patient. That simulation began at the airport and required a motorcade from the tarmac to take the patient to Sacred Heart.

The patient was then greeted by health care professionals in Hazmat suits.

RELATED: Four coronavirus patients treated in isolation rooms at Sacred Heart

See all of the latest coverage of the coronavirus patients in Spokane in our YouTube playlist:  

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