Harris County emergency managers planning for extra hospital beds

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As healthcare workers continue on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis in the Houston area, emergency management personnel are looking ahead at what may come.

As the number of cases increase that require hospitalization, county officials are working with a regional government group to address bed capacity in the event of a shortage at area hospitals.

Harris County Homeland Security & Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Sloan said efforts are underway to prevent a burden if the crisis puts a greater strain on resources.

"Will we have enough beds? We hope so. We don't know that yet," Sloan said.

The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council is working to secure beds and space in the event they're needed.

"They're coordinating with the entire region, 25 counties total in their area, to work with the hospitals to build that capacity," according to Sloan.

As stay-at-home orders have been issued in the region and social distancing has become the norm, Sloan said the same practices are in place among emergency planners, except there's an extra layer of precaution.

"We have two separate command staffs and we do not come into contact with one another," Sloan said. "We try to separate ourselves and distance ourselves, so we that we don't lose continuity of operations here in the operations center."

With more than 135 coronavirus cases in Harris County and counting, Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Thursday a new recovery fund aimed at helping those most impacted economically by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund has been established with the United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
"In the Greater Houston area, many households already struggle to make ends meet. With public events, schools and workplaces closing, low-wage workers living paycheck to paycheck may experience unprecedented financial hardship. With schools closed, the demand for affordable child care and emergency food assistance will increase exponentially," the recovery fund's website states. "The Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund will help the most vulnerable of our neighbors meet their basic needs and will help impactful nonprofits in our area serve our community through the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic aftermath."

According to the recovery fund, the 211 Texas/United Way HELPLINE will be able to connect people in need at all hours of the day. In addition, a COVID-19 Community Impact Survey will enable local nonprofits to understand the economic needs of households impacted by the pandemic.

You can also make a donation on the recovery fund's website.

SEE ALSO: Stay 'Houston Strong' by helping these charities helping you during COVID-19 outbreak

While Harris County is set on the generosity aspect of the outbreak, the number cases expanded. The 135 coronavirus cases is based on 16 new patients identified Thursday. So far, 13 people have recovered and one person has died in the county.
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