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Could Fort Worth host a coronavirus field hospital? Maybe

April 2,2020

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Luke Ranker here.

Federal officials visited Fort Worth over the weekend to scout a possible field hospital location in preparation for novel coronavirus patients overwhelming hospitals, a senior Fort Worth official said, though military officials Thursday said Dallas is the top priority for the facility.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas will open as a temporary medical center. The center would have 250 beds and the capacity to expand to as many as 1,400.

During the press conference, officials alluded to the possibility of other Dallas-Fort Worth field pop-up hospitals.

Brandon Bennett, director of Fort Worth’s joint Emergency Operations Center, said officials looked at locations Fort Worth over the weekend. The city was not directly involved in the scouting, Bennett said, but he expected to be notified if a Fort Worth location is chosen.

It could be some time before a Fort Worth location is selected, Bennett said, noting that federal resources are being allocated to coronavirus hot spots like the New York City metro area and the West Coast over places like Fort Worth that have a relatively low infection rate. Dallas County has nearly three times as many cases as Tarrant County, as of Thursday afternoon.

A pop-up hospital could be a major asset if Tarrant County hospitals become overrun with patients. Last week Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said as many as 12,000 people could seek care in Tarrant County at the height of the crisis. At the time hospitals had room for about 5,300 patients.

Fort Worth has several large public and private buildings that could be retro-fitted into a field hospital including Dickies Arena and some buildings in the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The downtown convention center has been used as an overflow homeless shelter since March 19.

Discussions have not yet begun about using the convention center or Dickies Arena as a field hospital, according to spokeswomen for each.

The Fort Worth division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was involved in assessing four Dallas locations, including the convention center, said spokesman Clay Church. Other Dallas locations include the Walnut Hill Medical Center that closed in 2017, an Embassy Suites and the Lumen Hotel.

But the Fort Worth division did not look at any Tarrant County locations, he said, referring questions to the Army National Guard. A Texas Military Department spokesman said the agency was not currently looking for a Tarrant County location.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency referred questions to a Navy spokeswoman. Navy Lt. Eileen Suarez with the Expeditionary Medical Support Command said the Dallas location was the only field hospital in the works at this time in Dallas-Fort Worth.

It was unclear Thursday if AT&T Stadium or Globe Life Park have been considered, but sports arenas in other parts of the country have been selected for field hospitals.

Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, owned by the Kings NBA team, will be converted into a 360-bed field hospital to treat both coronavirus and regular trauma care patients. An arena in Worcester, Mass., is also being repurposed, The Associated Press reported.

Location Mentioned: Fort Worth Convention Center