Harris Co. plans to potentially open new COVID-19 shelter

Roughly four weeks after the announced closure of a $17 million field hospital that was never used, Harris County now has plans to potentially open another COVID-19 medical shelter, if the need arises.

Commissioners approved up to $1 million in funding May 19th for a supplemental item described as a “non-congregate shelter operation.”

A document sent to the City of Houston and obtained by FOX 26 confirmed the planned shelter’s location at NRG and included a floor plan of the 150-bed facility to house both men and women.

“It’s in a ready state and a ready mode. There is nothing set up, but the resources and assets are either onsite in trailers or being held by the vendors for us in the event we need to activate,” said Mac McClendon, Harris County Director of Public Health Preparedness.

With the shutdown of the initial spillover facility, McClendon says the proposed shelter has not yet been mobilized, a process that will only be triggered if infection and hospitalization data indicate local health care bed space is nearing capacity.

In other words, a safety net for a COVID-19 surge far more serious in greater Houston than the first.

“If I’m looking at the ICU bed capacity and it moves into the surge area, in general terms 50 percent of their surge capacity, we would start activating and getting set up so that when they reached capacity there is an augmented system in place so that they have those beds for the more critical patients,” said McClendon.

McClendon also says having the “better-safe-than-sorry” measure in place is essential to Harris County getting reimbursed by the federal government.