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Emergency department preparation for COVID-19: accelerated care units
  1. Jeanne Noble,
  2. Nida Felicija Degesys,
  3. Elizabeth Kwan,
  4. Edward Grom,
  5. Cortlyn Brown,
  6. Jahan Fahimi,
  7. Maria Raven
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cortlyn Brown, Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA; cortlyn.brown{at}


By 11 February 2020 when the WHO named the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19), it was evident that the virus was spreading rapidly outside of China. Although San Francisco did not confirm its first locally transmitted cases until the first week of March, our ED and health system began preparing for a potential COVID-19 surge in late February 2020.

In this manuscript, we detail how the above responses were instrumental in the rapid deployment of two military-grade negative-pressure medical tents, named accelerated care units (ACU). We describe engagement of our workforce, logistics of creating new care areas, ensuring safety through personal protective equipment access and conservation, and the adaptive leadership challenges that this process posed.

We know of no other comprehensive examples of how EDs have prepared for COVID-19 in the peer-reviewed literature. Many other EDs both in and outside of California have requested access to the details of how we operationalised our ACUs to facilitate their own planning. This demonstrates the urgent need to disseminate this information to our colleagues. Below we describe the process of developing and launching our ACUs as a potential model for other EDs around the country.

  • disaster planning and response
  • infection
  • viral
  • clinical management
  • communications

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the original planning of the ACUs, and in the composition and editing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.