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.

For now the facility has 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 make-shift 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.

More than 13,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide on Monday, state health officials reported, and nearly 30,000 people in the state have died since the pandemic started.