The ongoing march of the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching the capabilities of hospital infrastructure and medical staff across the globe. Governments are forced to address a fundamental question: How can we expand triage facilities in a short period of time to address the exponentially growing number of patients? While some cities such as New York are converting once-trafficked convention centers and dorms into field hospitals, the answer developed by an international task force led by Carlo Ratti Associati, Huminatas Healthare and University, the World Economic Forum, amongst many others, is CURA, or Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments, shipping containers outfitted to function as biocontainment pods.

The CURA prototype follows the standard length and width of shipping containers; 8 feet by 8.5 feet by 20 feet. Each pod is intended to function independently of the next, and will be retrofitted to include the medical equipment—beds, IV stands, and ventilators—necessary to treat two COVID-19 patients. Additionally, the compartmentalized structure of the pods allows for the straightforward installation of an air extractor to insure indoor negative pressure. While the CURA pods can function as stand-alone supplements to preexisting hospital ICU intakes, they are by there very nature modular and can be stitched together into an effective field hospital via an inflatable corridor.

According to Carlo Ratti, the international task force has been collaborating for approximately a week and formed to apply their skills to the present crisis. “The first step has been to form a “task force” with engineers, doctors, military experts, NGOs, and many different consultants,” said Ratti. “This week we will upload online all the technical specs so that anybody could reproduce and install the CURA pods where most needed.”

Side diagram of a CURA shipping container turned into a 2-bed hospital

Axonometric diagram of how the containers would be laid out. (Courtesy CURA)

Currently, the nonprofit team is coordinating between New York and Turin, Italy, and constructing the prototype for testing at a hospital in Milan. If proven successful, the open-source model can be replicated across the world and easily shipped to particular hotspots.

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