HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Staff for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Thursday their emergency shelter for COVID-19 patients is ready to deploy if needed, but they currently had no plans to do so.
“We would not be standing that up until we start getting into the hospital surge capacity,” Judge Hidalgo said during a press conference Monday.
On Wednesday, a member of her administration told KHOU 11, “The NRG medical shelter is ready to deploy if needed, but right now, there is plenty of surge capacity available. The use of the shelter would only be needed when that capacity is exceeded by local hospitals.”
“Once we start inching closer to that, that’s when we would say ‘Okay, we gotta activate the shelter,’” said Judge Hidalgo during the June 22 press conference.
The county previously hired a contractor to build a $17 million makeshift hospital at NRG Park in April, when COVID-19 cases around the U.S. were first rising.
However, Houstonians flattened the curve, hospitals never got overwhelmed, so the county tore down the facility later that month without admitting a single patient.
“The time that you guys have bought us, we’ve been able to get the resources that we didn’t have a month ago,” said Judge Hidalgo, announcing the closure on April 24. “We now have resources locally to build our own medical shelter here.”
Because Harris County is currently in hurricane season, its new shelter at NRG would be indoors. It would be smaller, with a 150-bed capacity.
Already identified staff from the county health department, volunteers, and, if needed, contract staff, would care for patients.
County leaders say they could have this one up and running in one to two days.
Judge Hidalgo said federal dollars would cover the entire cost.