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Harris County invests $11 million for emergency healthcare facility at NRG park amid coronavirus pandemic

HOUSTON – Harris County and Houston officials said the region is ready for the potential worst-case scenario if the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, officials said the healthcare system has remained within capacity. Officials created the pop-up medical shelter at NRG Park to serve as a back-up if the hospitals' surge capacity is exceeded.

"Let us hope that we don't need that," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at the press conference Saturday afternoon.

“I hope we never have to use the medical facility, but it is better to prepare in case there is an increase in positive Coronavirus cases," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "I also want to thank the federal government for helping us double our testing capacity in both the city and county. We need more testing, especially in high poverty areas and in vulnerable communities.”

Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to allocate up to $60M for medical shelter at NRG Park. Hidalgo said the county invested $11 million into the facility.

FEMA has committed to reimburse the county 75% of the cost up to $177 million for the medical facility.

Hidalgo said the 250-bed facility is ready after construction began earlier this week.

The county has secured the needed healthcare equipment, created systems and procedures, and employed doctors, nurses and experts, to respond if the overhaul is necessary.

The temporary healthcare shelter will work in partnership with the regional healthcare systems and provide several units, depending on the level of patients' care.

Officials have dedicated two units to positive coronavirus patients, one section to people who may have contracted the virus and one level for those requiring ICU-level care, Hidalgo said.

Harris County has tested more than 8,400 people for coronavirus, according to Harris County Health.

As of Saturday afternoon, more than 1,100 people have tested positive. Twenty-four people have died from COVID-19-related complications, while nearly 300 people have recovered.

‘Hope is not a strategy.’

Hidalgo opted to move forward with this medical investment, as the number of new coronavirus cases spikes daily in Houston and Harris County.

“Hope is not a strategy. We have to make sure that we are prepared for our worst-case scenario, so we began moving forward,” Hidalgo said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that there are plenty of hospital beds available at area-hospitals during the pandemic.

"We are still within the hospitals' abilities to handle the load," Turner said. "The other number I look at is the number of people in ICU and the number of ICU beds available and as of today that is still within the hospitals' ability to handle people who need ICUs. Look at it in terms of people on ventilators, the number that is available, and the number that is on ventilators. As of today, our hospitals are able to handle that load."

However, Turner also said the response needs to continue to be aggressive.

Hidalgo said she decided to move forward with the NRG medical shelter because she was faced with a "take-or-leave it" scenario.

“But that doesn’t mean we are going to use it,” she said. “If we don’t use it, we don’t use it, and we’re good.”

Here is the Saturday’s joint press conference:

🔴WATCH LIVE: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other officials will provide an update on the region's coronavirus response following a tour of the medical shelter at NRG Park.

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Saturday, April 11, 2020

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