The need for clarification came as Jenkins said he received an “odd letter” from Luis Saenz, Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff. In the letter, Saenz said he heard that Jenkins does not want the federal resources needed for the facility, which is to be run by the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In a tweet earlier today, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he was “stunned and deeply disappointed” to hear of Dallas County’s position on the popup hospital.
This hospital is an important asset that we have worked proactively, collaboratively, and tirelessly with our federal and state partners to obtain for our region. I am alarmed that these medical resources are now at risk as we begin preparing for a surge in #COVID19 cases. (2/3)
— Mayor Eric Johnson (@Johnson4Dallas) April 5, 2020
Jenkins said claims made in the letter are untrue and that Dallas County has been feverishly working to ready the facility for use.
“We do want this asset,” he said. “At no time did we say we didn’t want this asset.”
If Jenkins does not confirm the county’s intention to use the hospital by 5 p.m. April 6, it may be moved to another area, the letter said.
Jenkins said he has made his position clear but would be “happy to write back a letter reiterating what everyone here already knows—that we are working hard to stand up that asset.”
He said the confusion may have resulted from a phone conversation Jenkins had with Maj. Gen. Mike Stone, in which Stone said he planned to move a small contingent of doctors and nurses to New Orleans if they were not needed at the convention center by April 6.
Jenkins said he told Stone the stepdown unit will be used once capacity issues arise at area hospitals. At this point, area hospitals are at 50% capacity, Jenkins said.
Once up and running, the hospital will have enough beds to treat 240 COVID patients who have begun to recover but are not yet well enough to return home. The idea is to relieve pressure on hospitals and to free up beds and ventilators, Jenkins said.
“We are not going to just put people in there for the purpose of showing the media that it’s being used,” Jenkins said. “It is to be used as a COVID stepdown unit when there are hospital capacity issues, probably in a week or two.”
Jenkins concluded his remarks by attempting to quell any concerns stirred up by the letter.
“You should not worry about this,” he said. “I have the Navy officer overseeing the whole thing’s word that when we need it, it will be there. We are working day in and day out to make sure it is ready.”
Jenkins said he is working to get an item on the upcoming commissioners court’s agenda to approve funding for the wraparound services needed to run the facility. The next commissioners court meeting is scheduled for April 7.