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

The new 35-story building overlooks Lady Bird Lake and Shoal Creek. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Workers celebrate topping out of Austin 'sailboat building' concrete structure

Workers who contribute to the construction of the Block 185 building celebrated topping off the structure, a big milestone for the development project that began in 2019.

A system to identify at-risk Austin Police Department employees has not been effective. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Audit finds Austin police system to flag at-risk officers is failing

Austin's city auditor and police chief agree the police department's computer program to identify at-risk officers is not fulfilling its mission.

A rise in COVID-19 cases has Travis County back in stage 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin reverts to Stage 4 guidelines with rising delta variant cases

As delta variant COVID -19 cases are sending more young people to local ICUs, The Austin-Travis County Health Authority has moved the area back to guidelines that require masks indoors.

Opening day at Q2 Stadium
US men’s soccer team to visit Q2 Stadium this fall

The U.S. men's national team will host Jamaica for a FIFA World Cup qualifier game on Oct. 7.

Capital Metro is hosting a series of virtual meetings to hear feedback from the community on the latest Project Connect designs. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Capital Metro seeks community input on latest Project Connect design

Want to have your voice heard about Project Connect? Tune in to the upcoming virtual meetings.

Leander Marketplace PUD would be located at the northeast corner of Hero Way and US 183. (Screenshot courtesy city of Leander)
Leander eyes development with restaurants, retail; Bin Drop opens in New Braunfels and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Dozens of Austin residents spoke virtually and in person July 22 to share their thoughts on the city's proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police funding again takes center stage in public hearing on Austin's proposed FY 2021-22 budget

Dozens of city residents calling into or appearing at City Hall on July 22 shared their thoughts about policing and the city's spending plan.

Mortgage purchase applications are down year over year, but the Austin housing market remains hot. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin housing market still hot but showing signs of slowing down

Experts say that a decrease in mortgage purchase applications points to “a reversion back to norm” in the Austin housing market.

Peter Lake (left), chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, provided an update on state regulators' electric grid redesign efforts in Austin on July 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Regulators: Texas electric grid prepared for potentially record-breaking demand next week; 'once-in-a-generation reforms' underway

The heads of the agencies in charge of the Texas electric grid met in Austin on July 22 to provide updates on their grid reform efforts.

Z'Tejas margarita
Where to celebrate National Tequila Day this year around Austin

From mezcal bars to frozen margarita specials, here is a list of places to celebrate National Tequila Day on July 24.