Never miss a story
Sign up for our free daily morning email...
...and afternoon text update
×
(Travel_With_Me/Shutterstock)

The Austin Convention Center is being prepared as a field hospital for up to 1,500 low-acuity coronavirus patients, local officials confirmed.


Sarah Eckhardt, special assistant to Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, told the Austin American-Statesman that it will open on July 20, if needed, and is being paid for with local property tax dollars, a reimbursable expense under the CARES Act—the federal coronavirus relief package.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Wednesday that the convention center is intended to serve as a buffer in case hospitals reach capacity. But his goal is to avoid this outcome.

"We are desperately trying to avoid two things," he said. "Number one, the hospitals overcrowding and not being able to provide the world-class care they already do." Number two is a second economic shutdown, Dr. Escott.

Dr. Escott recommended the city begin preparing the convention center in late June, as COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations skyrocketed.

The city's surge plan, released in early April, did not name the convention center as an alternate care site, but said such facilities would be similar to combat surgical hospitals or large wards and serve low-acuity patients, such as those who need IVs or supplemental oxygen.

Austin's three hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. Davids HealthCare—are collectively at 76% hospital capacity and 85% ICU capacity, they reported Tuesday evening. About 30% of in-use ICU beds are occupied by COVID patients, Dr. Escott told Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday.

ICU capacity is a particular concern—Dr. Escott called it a "pinch point" on Wednesday—and said that hospitals may need to transition non-ICU beds to meet demand. This would limit the number of hospital beds available for less critical patients and could perhaps hasten the need for the convention center as an alternate care side.

Popular

(Never Settle Media/Shutterstock)
Alamo Drafthouse in S. Austin offers private, sanitized screenings

Beloved movie chain, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has filed for bankruptcy after a tough year for the film industry as theaters remained closed for months.

The filing comes as part of an asset purchase agreement with Altamon Capitol Partners and Fortress Investment Group, which is the financial backer of Gannett, the parent company of the Austin American Statesman.

The locally headquartered theater has said that operations will remain normal, however, some locations are closing down including Austin's Ritz location Downtown.

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.

Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.

A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.

Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."

She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."

That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."

Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.

Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.

Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.

Two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Texas' first confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will rescind statewide pandemic restrictions, including business capacity limits and mask mandates, next week. Although businesses—especially those tied to the hospitality industry—have suffered financially over the last year, many Austin establishments are rejecting Abbott's order.

Keep Reading Show less