HOUSTON - Construction is underway outside NRG Stadium in Houston. Crews are building a makeshift hospital for Coronavirus COVID-19 patients just in case area hospitals exceed capacity.
“It’s better to have it and not need it than to be caught flat-footed and have to build something last minute,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
So far there are more than 3,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 in Harris County. According to Judge Hidalgo, area hospitals are starting to be impacted by the number of COVID-19 patients.
“We are very much in the thick of it,” said Hidalgo. “In the region, we have at least 250 ICU beds available. We’re trying to assess the surge capacity. That’s a pretty tight number.”
We weren’t allowed into NRG Stadium’s parking lot on Thursday. However, we could see the construction taking place through a fence. Inside, there are at least 5 large tents visible attached to air conditioning units.
Construction had been scheduled to be finished by Friday. However, severe weather on Thursday delayed the project. Officials say it should be ready by Monday.
According to Hidalgo, the temporary facility will provide 250 new beds for COVID-19 patients. In addition, they have the ability to add more if needed.
“It comes with staff,” said Hidalgo. “The contract includes doctors, nursing equipment so that we can have COVID positive patients that the hospitals can’t provide for because of a lack of space.”
The judge says construction for the makeshift hospital will cost Harris County $11 million. If the facility is used, the expenses will increase to more than $20 million. Costs could also increase if they have to add additional beds.
“We’ve approved up to $60 million for that shelter with the understanding that all of that is reimbursable from the federal government at a 75% rate,” said Hidalgo. “I feel like if people are criticizing saying we did too much, and we averted a crisis, that is success to me. That is what success looks like. The minute we are at not enough, or barely, we are losing.”
We’re told that county funds will be used to cover costs not reimbursed by the federal government.