The building that is, at least for now, still scheduled to host the National Sports Collectors Convention this summer, is now officially a temporary medical facility.
The Atlantic City (NJ) Convention Center is the site of one of three field hospitals set up by the federal government as part of the response to the Coronavirus.
Normally used to house large conventions such as the National, the convention center was chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers to house an influx of non-COVID patients, taking the pressure off hospitals in the region that have been inundated with patients suffering from the virus.
In a state with a population of fewer than nine million people, New Jersey had reported 4,377 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon and 89,000 positive cases. Thousands of cases have required hospitalization. New York has been the hardest hit by the virus, but medical facilities in New Jersey were also facing difficult circumstances.
According to The Press of Atlantic City, the field hospital at the convention center was constructed in about two weeks and was expected to take in its first patients as early as Tuesday afternoon. Other field hospitals were established at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.
The Press’ coverage showed rows of one-bed units on the convention floor, separated by white curtains. If necessary, the convention center could hold 3,000 beds.
Sports collecting’s biggest event, the National is scheduled to open July 29 and run for five days. Promoters stated earlier this month that while there were no plans to cancel or reschedule the show as of now, they would continue to follow federal and state guidelines “before making a decision on what steps to take next.” They did indicate that an alternative plan was being considered “should the original dates be deemed unsafe for our attendees and exhibitors.”
Much would have to change for the National to proceed this summer or even at a later date this year. New Jersey guidelines currently prohibit gatherings of any size and health experts believe those restrictions aren’t likely to change significantly enough in the next couple of months to allow thousands to gather in one place. Several states have indicated public events would not likely proceed in 2020 or perhaps even well into 2021 without the availability of a vaccine or widespread testing.
In addition to hosting thousands of dealers and collectors who browse the floor, shopping for cards and other memorabilia, the National typically brings in over 100 current and former athletes and coaches to sign autographs and meet fans during the show’s five-day run.