Feds scope out Orange County Convention Center for possible COVID care center

Center could house 500 beds if hospitals reach capacity

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent the weekend determining whether the Orange County Convention Center will be the site of an alternate medical treatment facility for coronavirus patients, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Demings said the team used two days at the convention center to analyze space, where 500 beds could be set up to help hospitals if they start exceeding capacity.

“If we continue to see the numbers go up, I don’t want to get to the point where we approach capacity within our hospitals. That would be catastrophic for us as a community,” he said.

Demings said the beds would be made available to patients in Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola Counties if hospitals needed more space, but right now, it appears they have enough beds.

“I have been in continuous conversation with our healthcare executives here in the area, and they have reassured me that at this point, we are fairly safe,” he said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 8,051 coronavirus patients are currently in hospitals around the state, 1,439 are in hospitals in the nine counties of Central Florida.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, 28 percent of intensive care unit beds are open, and leaders hope capacity remains like that.

“I don’t think that we are any closer to overwhelming the hospitals,” said Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

He said his team has worked hard pinpointing where people are contracting the virus, but with people not staying home, it’s getting more difficult.

“When you have community distribution and someone went to the supermarket, to the pharmacy, to the school, to the doctor, then where you catch it is the question,” he said.

Pino and Demings said they next four days of numbers are crucial to determining what will happen next.

They said the next four days represent the Fourth of July holiday weekend two weeks ago.

If the numbers continue to climb, Demings said he has not ruled out implementing a curfew.

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