Anticipating a continued rise in COVID-19 cases, Santa Clara County officials said Saturday night that the federal government has begun setting up a temporary medical facility in the Santa Clara Convention Center.
The center would treat patients who have not tested positive for coronavirus, but are in need of treatment for less acute issues, like recovery from surgery. The idea, county spokesperson Roger Ross, is to ease pressure on the local healthcare system and allow hospitals to focus on patients with more serious medical needs, including those related to coronavirus.
“The goal would be for COVID-19 cases to be in a traditional hospital,” Ross said, adding that the federal medical station will “only be used if needed and that is not the case now.”
On Saturday, Santa Clara County confirmed an additional 67 cases of coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 263, including eight people who have died after contracting the illness.
Managed by the Division of the Strategic National Stockpile — a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services — federal medical stations are designed to quickly turn a pre-identified facility into a temporary hospital “during a national emergency.” The shelters have “the ability to increase local healthcare capabilities in mass casualty incidents or potential public health threats,” according to a government fact sheet.
The Santa Clara Convention Center will be able to accommodate 250 patients, and be equipped with beds, supplies, and medicine needed to provide short-term care, the county said in a statement. Federal officials have also begun preparations for a 1,000-bed medical shelter in Washington state, the Seattle Times reported.
It is not clear if, or where, the federal government is deploying other medical shelters in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson for HHS’ office of public health preparedness and response did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday night.