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Austin Convention Center being prepped as field hospital, former Travis County judge says

Sarah Eckhardt said the convention center will only be utilized when local hospitals say it's necessary.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Convention Center is being prepped to become a field hospital in the event that local health facilities cannot keep up with the demand for COVID-19 treatment, according to the special assistant to Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Sarah Eckhardt.

On Monday, Eckhardt told KVUE's Pattrik Perez that the alternative care site is being prepared as a cautionary measure and will only be utilized should the need arise.

"It takes us about three to four weeks to set something like that up in the convention center," said Eckhardt. "And so we have asked in partnership with the hospitals, 'What is the moment at which we are likely to be three to four weeks away from needing something like that?' We believe we are there."

She said they've begun stocking and staffing the care site already, but she hopes we'll never need it.

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"Everyone agrees, we would prefer all people who need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 or anything else be treated within a purpose-built hospital and not in a field hospital," said Eckhardt.

As of Monday, Eckhardt said the convention center is the only current site being discussed as a field hospital.

"We have a number of hotel rooms across the community that we're utilizing for isolation facilities and for people to recover in so they don't infect members of their household, but really the alternative care site is really a field hospital. It's for people who need hospitalization," said Eckhardt. "We will triage it so that those who need to be hospitalized, and they are the most serious cases, will stay at the hospital. These are people who will need to be hospitalized but will not need as intense of care."

She said, as of now, they're planning for the field hospital to be able to house about 1,500 people.

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