Dallas May Open Pop-Up Hospital As Coronavirus Surge Sparks Capacity Fears

As novel coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Texas continue to soar, a temporary medical facility for COVID-19 patients may be opened at a convention center in Dallas to help cope with the surge.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is expected to meet with Dallas County officials and the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Thursday to discuss "whether we need to stand up the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center medical facility," he said Wednesday.

"COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Dallas County. The data is clear. Our case numbers and our hospitalization numbers, which we've been tracking daily are headed in the wrong direction.

"We're trying to stay ahead of this thing. We don't want to be in a position of reacting. We want to make sure that we are prepared for what could be happening two weeks from now," Johnson said in an interview Wednesday with KFDA-TV of Amarillo, Texas.

On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in the Texas counties of Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis in a bid to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients.

"As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus, and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients," Abbott said in a statement.

"These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized for COVID-19 and today's action is a precautionary step to ensure that hospitals in these counties have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients."

On Wednesday, Texas reported 4,389 hospitalizations, the highest daily total since April 4.

The state also reported a record number of 5,551 new cases on Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there are reported to be 3,113 available hospital beds and 405 available ICU beds, with 1,130 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients currently in hospital, according to the latest report Thursday by the Texas DSHS.

Around 70 percent of beds in Dallas area hospitals are reportedly occupied, not including beds that can be added by hospitals, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

On Tuesday, 675 of the 942 intensive care unit (ICU) beds across 25 hospitals in Dallas were reportedly occupied, while 352 of the total 959 ventilators were in use, according to data from the Dallas mayor's office.

The president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, Steve Love, said he was unaware of any hospital that had reached capacity.

Newsweek has contacted the offices of Johnson and Abbott as well as the Dallas County Office, the Texas DSHS, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and the Texas Medical Center for comment.

Dallas, Texas, hospital staff May 2020
Hospital staff in Dallas, Texas pictured during a U.S. Navy Blue Angels flyover above the Medical City Dallas hospital on May 6, 2020. Getty Images

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center was initially announced as a possible temporary healthcare facility for COVID-19 patients by Abbott at a news conference back in March.

The convention center was reported to have space for at least 250 beds. At the time, Abbott confirmed similar facilities would be looked into for Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has reportedly confirmed the area's ICU facility was at 97 percent capacity, with nearly 27 percent occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to Houston City Council Member Sallie Alcorn.

Earlier this week, Texas Children's Hospital in Houston announced it would be accepting adult patients to help provide additional beds for the state's surging number of COVID-19 patients.

In Harris County there has been a 177 percent increase in positive/suspected COVID-19 patients in general/isolation beds since May 31, the Houston Health Department confirmed in a post Monday on its official Twitter account.

The department also noted a 64 percent increase in positive/suspected COVID-19 patients in ICU beds since May 31.

The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has spread to over 9.4 million people across the globe, including over 2.3 million in the U.S. More than 4.7 million globally have reportedly recovered from infection, while nearly 483,400 have died, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrations the daily number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Surge in U.S. COVID-19 cases
Daily number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. STATISTA

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the percentage of COVID-19-related hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in the U.S.

hospitalizations, ICU admissions, deaths U.S. COVID-19 cases
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths among U.S. COVID-19 patients. STATISTA

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and European Union.

COVID-19 cases in U.S. and EU
Seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and European Union. STATISTA