Austin Convention Center will be ready July 21 to accept patients, even as COVID-19 hospitalization numbers offer 'glimmer of hope'

The Austin Convention Center will be ready to begin operations as a field hospital and start accepting patients July 21, according to Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County alternate health authority. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Austin Convention Center will be ready to begin operations as a field hospital and start accepting patients July 21, according to Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County alternate health authority. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Austin Convention Center will be ready to begin operations as a field hospital and start accepting patients July 21, according to Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County alternate health authority. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Daily COVID-19 hospitalization numbers in the Austin area have leveled off in the last week after steadily and consistently climbing through June and early July, according to the most recent data from Austin Public Health.

The rolling average of daily hospitalizations, a metric public health officials use to monitor hospital capacity and project hospital resources into the future, rose from the single digits in most of March, April and May to 46.6 on June 24 and eventually up to 75.1 on July 8. In the last week, that average has dipped slightly, to 69.6 average daily hospitalizations July 15.

Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County alternate health authority, said the plateau is "a glimmer of hope," but it's difficult to say if the trend will remain or if the hospitalization numbers will continue their upward trend. Meanwhile, he said local hospitals are approaching their maximum ability to care for patients with the space and staff they have available.

"The hospitals right now are stretched, and they are pulling staff in from hospitals and other areas and contract staffing [workers] to increase their capabilities," Pickett said.

As of July 10, Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare reported they have a combined 2,473 overall staffed beds occupied at 77% and 483 intensive care unit beds occupied at 86%.


Austin is not the only city in Texas with a need for more health care resources. As of July 15, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services reported 10,471 COVID-19 patients currently in hospitals, up from 6,904 at the beginning of the month and 2,326 on June 15. The state also reported 10,791 new cases of the virus July 15, a new high.

With Austin competing for hospital staff with other cities around the state and the country, officials are working to set up the Austin Convention Center as a field hospital, Pickett said.

The convention center would not take ICU patients or those with a need for a high level of care. Instead, it would accept "lower-acuity" patients, according to Pickett, to free up space in other area hospitals. The field hospital at the convention center will be ready to begin operations on July 21, but it will not necessarily accept patients until there is a need, Pickett said.

"I hope we don't have to take a single patient in it. I hope the disease levels off, the hospitals are able to care for everyone that needs to be cared for in a hospital setting, but we've got to be ready for [a continued surge]—and we will be ready," he said.


MOST RECENT

Austin bars scrap for survival during monthslong shutdown

Bars are fighting through red tape to reclassify as restaurants, offering takeout orders and finding new uses for their spaces. Local business owners said they are finding every avenue possible to survive.

According to the report, 380,174 total COVID-19 cases have been reported in children nationwide as of Aug. 6, which accounts for approximately 9.1% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
REPORT: COVID-19 cases in children increase by 90% nationwide in 1 month

As school district officials across the U.S. prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children nationwide between July 9 and Aug. 6—an increase of 90%, according to a report compiled by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Burnet Road and Braker Lane
City pushing to finish Burnet Road improvements before Austin FC stadium opener

Austin construction crews will work to finish improvements at the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane in North Austin before Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC plays its first game in the upcoming stadium at McKalla Place.

Austin City Council is considering moving the forensics lab services and internal affairs department out from under the Austin Police Department and into civilian roles. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police cuts, community reinvestment, reimagining public safety on table as Austin City Council looks to adopt budget

City Council is considering a cut of more than a $150 million to the police budget.

The University of Texas will host football games at Darrell K. Royal Veterans Memorial Stadium this fall after an announcement from the Big 12 Conference on Aug. 12 that the fall sports season will continue. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
After Big Ten and PAC-12 cancel, Big 12 announces fall sports season will roll on

The conference football season will begin Sept. 26, and fan capacity in stadiums will be up to each of the 10 member universities, according to the Big 12.

Future Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke to trustees at a meeting Aug. 11. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD makes it official, hiring Stephanie Elizalde as next superintendent

Elizalde was serving as Dallas ISD’s chief of school leadership prior to the hire.

A trial related to a speeding ticket in Pflugerville on Aug. 11 was the first-ever binding criminal jury trial to take place via videoconferencing, according to Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu. (Courtesy Travis County Justices of the Peace)
‘You’re on mute’: Travis County pilots virtual trial by jury

The low-level misdemeanor trial featured a YouTube user commenting on a juror's cat and one potential juror—who was not selected—whose name appeared on Zoom as "Goth Brooks."

A screen shot of Dr. Mark Escott's face
Travis County health officials turn toward positivity rate to track local coronavirus risk

Recent statistics show the positivity rate for testing could be an early sign of local coronavirus trends to come.

Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley speaks to trustees at a board information session Aug. 10. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Outside equity assessment at AISD could evaluate hiring practices, past closures

A report could look at the root causes of inequities and offer the district best practices as potential solutions.