Austin Convention Center opens as field hospital as COVID-19 hospitalizations reach new high

Photo of the Austin Convention Center
The Austin Convention Center began accepting patients as a field hospital Jan. 12. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Austin Convention Center began accepting patients as a field hospital Jan. 12. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Public Health announced Jan. 12 that the Austin Convention Center has pened its doors to overflow patients from local hospitals. Dubbed the Austin-Travis County Alternate Care Site, the field hospital will accept lower-acuity patients referred by overwhelmed medical facilities to "alleviate the burden of caring for COVID-19 patients," according to a news release.

“Opening the facility is a signal to the community that we have a long way to go in our fight against COVID-19," said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin and Travis County, in the release.

Escott announced Jan. 6 that preparations were underway to activate the Alternate Care Site due to a sharp rise in hospitalizations and ICU admissions related to COVID-19. A week later, at a Jan. 12 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court, Escott announced an all-time for coronavirus-related hospital admissions: 601 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Jan. 11.

"I’ve been a physician for a long time now. I’ve never seen anything like this before," Escott said at the meeting. He urged several callers from the public to trust the scientific community's support of masking and social distancing in an effort to blunt the surge of hospitalizations.

Escott also said the number of COVID-19 patients in local intensive care units had reached 190. By Jan. 14, that number is expected to reach 200—the threshold at which ICUs are likely to surpass capacity and trigger increased use of the Alternate Care Site—based on projections by the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. As of Jan. 12, the 493 ICU beds staffed by Austin-area hospital systems Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare were 91% occupied, according to communications from the systems.


The Alternate Care Site will serve lower-acuity patients who need a "lower intensity of care" for the time being. Walk-ins will not be admitted, and hospitals must refer patients to the facility.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

Austin transportation officials said April 15 the range of corridor construction program projects initiated through the city's 2016 Mobility Bond remain on track for completion by late 2024. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Austin corridor mobility projects moving forward in 2021, program on track for 2024 completion

Transportation officials said some corridor program improvements previously planned along Guadalupe Street and East Riverside Drive are being reduced ahead of Project Connect expansions.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

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

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Photo of a home for sale
Central Austin housing market remains steep as area median home price reaches all-time high

Home prices in the Austin-Round Rock area have climbed more than 28% in the past year.

Residents ride bikes on Shoal Creek Boulevard in this photo from February 2020. Austin Water is taking on a project to replace water and wastewater lines in the Allandale neighborhood. (jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Water line construction project begins in Allandale neighborhood

Once the improvements are made, customers can expect water and wastewater outages typically lasting a few hours as their service is connected to the new lines.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes leaders and Community First Village residents unveiled the planned third and fourth phases of the Austin development for the formerly homeless April 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Community First Village for the formerly homeless announces 127-acre, 1,400-home expansion

Officials with the community, which is intended for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness, said that two new expansion phases are expected to begin development in 2022.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.