In light of an expected peak of COVID-19 cases in coming weeks, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh confirmed that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center would be used as a field hospital throughout the crisis.

Construction started Monday to convert the facility to accommodate 500 beds for homeless adults who “have tested positive and need care but do not require full hospitalization,” he said.

Walsh said that the number of beds that will be available for homeless populations is 1,000.

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He added that the site would be opened up to the general population should it be necessary.

“Moving forward we’ll continue to be an active partner with our medical community,“ he said, “as they continue to do their life-saving work.”

Walsh also unveiled $5 million in funding being made available to small businesses and residents to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority, $3 million, will go towards a housing stability fund to help families who lost their sources of income but don’t qualify for federal help cover rent expenses. The remaining $2 million would be available Monday as grant funding for small businesses.

“This is a national crisis at a scale none of us has seen in our lifetime,” he said. “At this stressful time people shouldn’t have to worry about losing their home period.”

The announcement came in the wake of an increase of 176 cases of the illness in Boston from Wednesday, bringing total numbers to 1,233 cases. Walsh said that 10 Boston residents have died as a result of COVID-19.

“That number is the hardest one to see rising,” he said.

Walsh then went on to tell Boston residents to continue social distancing and to stop gathering in groups or go on non-essential shopping trips.

“A surge is in motion and it’s going to be hard,” he said. “This is a message we have to make a priority. I’m concerned that not everyone is listening.”

He said that he was looking into taking stricter measures to enforce social distancing regulations, including fines and police action.

“As mayor I will do whatever it takes to protect the people in Boston,” he said. “What we saw happen in Italy and what is happening in New York doesn’t need to happen here.”