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These pop-up hospital rooms are designed to help increase the capacity to treat coronavirus patients

Adapted from a design to house people after disasters, these shelters can hopefully be a solution for when healthcare systems need to quickly expand their number of beds.

This new pop-up hospital room get can loaded on to a 40-foot truck (along with 23 others) and be ready to be quickly deployed to areas where healthcare systems have been overwhelmed and ICUs are full. The design, from a startup called Jupe, should be ready for use as flu season begins in the fall—and when a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases is expected.

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Cofounders Jeff Wilson and Cameron Blizzard have been working on the concept for several months, and originally intended it for use as shelter in disasters. “The idea was, if your home burned down in Paradise, California, we can show up with 24 of these instantly and set them up,” says Wilson, a serial entrepreneur who previously founded the former tiny house company Kasita (that startup never took off). “Then, once folks got their homes rebuilt, we can reconfigure them and take them down for hurricane season, or they could be shipped overseas for the next disaster, like an earthquake in Haiti. The idea is that it’s reconfigurable and reusable.”

[Image: Jupe]

As the coronavirus crisis grew, the team decided to pivot and rush to market, working with healthcare experts to adapt the basic shelter design for three uses. One version is a simple sleeping room that doctors and nurses can use to rest between grueling shifts; it’s climate-controlled, can run off grid, comes with a noise reduction machine, and can easily be cleaned and sanitized after use. The shelters could be placed near hospitals in parking lots, or in the backyards of healthcare workers who want to avoid potentially infecting family members. Homeowners near hospitals could also possibly offer their backyards to healthcare workers who live farther away or don’t have yards of their own.

Another version of the shelter, designed for COVID-19 patients who don’t need ICU care, has ventilator hookups, a toilet and sink, the potential for negative pressure so germs can’t flow outward, and a chamber for healthcare workers to put on and take off personal protective equipment. A third version, still in development, would serve as a stand-alone ICU unit.

[Image: Jupe]
Unlike the tents that some hospitals are using for overflow, the Jupe units give each patient an individual room. “These large tents with all of these cots next to each other are often referred to as virus traps, because the virus sticks around and circulates,” Wilson says. The new pop-up rooms are also designed to be quiet, dark, and more restful as patients recover. “What we’re trying to do is nail that isolation experience that you might have in a hospital room, and get a lot closer to the cost of a cot in a big tent,” he says. (A single bed in a large hospital can cost as much $1.5 million to build)

A former Space X engineer is leading the design process, and the startup expects to have the first prototypes by the end of the month ready for testing. By the fall, when it’s possible that COVID-19 cases will swell again, it hopes to be mass-producing “thousands a month,” Wilson says. The shelters can be delivered to one location and later sanitized for delivery somewhere else; the company is considering a leasing model.

The startup hadn’t planned to move as quickly, but ” getting out there in the world at this time and trying to contribute something beats rewatching eight seasons of the X Files, as I probably would be right now,” says Wilson. “We’ve really been inspired by all the entrepreneurs that are doing such great things in the [personal protective equipment] space. I think this is when American ingenuity and entrepreneurship really can kick into high gear.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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