Many field hospitals went largely unused, will be shut down

When virus infections slowed down or fell short of worst-case predictions, the globe was left dotted with dozens of barely used or unused field hospitals. Some public officials say that’s a good problem to have — despite spending potentially billions of dollars to erect the care centers — because it’s a sign the deadly disease was not nearly as cataclysmic as it might have been.

Many of the facilities will now be kept on standby for a possible second wave of infections. Some could even be repurposed as testing sites or recovery centers.

“It will count as a huge success for the whole country if we never have to use them,” said Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the National Health Service in England, where sparsely used field hospitals have been criticized as costly, unnecessary “white elephants.”

“But with further waves of coronavirus possible, it is important that we have these extra facilities in place and treating patients,” Stevens said.