Austin Public Health preparing to use Austin Convention Center for overflow COVID-19 care by next week

Photo of Austin Convention Center
The Austin Convention Center is set to be used as a field hospital for coronavirus patients if and when local hospital capacity is overwhelmed, which could be as soon as next week, officials said. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Austin Convention Center is set to be used as a field hospital for coronavirus patients if and when local hospital capacity is overwhelmed, which could be as soon as next week, officials said. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Representatives for Austin Public Health said Jan. 6 that they are preparing to open the Austin Convention Center as an overflow location for coronavirus care as soon as next week.

Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority, said he expects local intensive care units to be maxed out by Jan. 15, based on data from the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

"My guess is that this week or next week, we will start the activation process for the alternate care site. It seems very clear to us that we are going to run out of hospital beds and that we are going to have to stretch resources in order to meet the needs of our community," Escott said at a Jan. 6 news conference.

APH first announced plans to use the Austin Convention Center in the instance of a severe COVID-19 surge that overwhelmed hospitals in July, when Travis County was in the midst of its first surge. At that time, Dr. jason Pickett, Austin-Travis County alternate health authority, said the convention center would be used as a field hospital for "lower-acuity" patients, rather than the most severely ill, in order to free up beds at hospitals.

Ultimately, the convention center was not used during the surge last summer. According to Escott, that is because the community took collective action to "flatten the curve" of cases and hospitalizations.


"That's what we need to happen again," Escott said. "Our hope is that again we can change the shape of that curve and we can continue to push off the date when ICU capacity is going to be surpassed. But that time frame is getting shorter and shorter to take decisive action as a community to avoid that."
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.



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