Austin opens COVID-19 field hospital in convention center
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Austin area opened a field hospital in a convention center Tuesday as cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus continue to soar.
The opening came as state health officials reported that Texas had surpassed 14,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients for the first time, as well as 22,000 more newly confirmed cases.
For now, the Austin field hospital will have 25 beds and can expand if needed.
“This Alternate Care Site in central Texas will reduce the burden on local hospitals and help ensure that Texans diagnosed with COVID-19 receive the care they need,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Dr. Mark Escott, the interim Austin-Travis County health director, said last week that the convention center could be pressed into service as a field hospital as cases surge from gatherings for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Other parts of Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, opened makeshift hospitals last year as COVID-19 bore down.
Now Texas is working to rapidly ramp up vaccinations. Cities throughout the state are using new mass hubs for people to get shots, but the effort is still limited by the supply of medicine coming from the federal government.
Texas has seen a surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Almost 354,000 COVID-19 cases were active Tuesday, according to estimates from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Besides surpassing 14,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, state health officials reported that 286 new fatalities raised the Texas COVID-19 death toll to more than 30,000 since the pandemic started.