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A New Orleans convention center was transformed into a makeshift medical center this week to house as many as 1,000 patients recovering from the coronavirus as a means of freeing up beds in hospitals for the critically ill.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, a sprawling 1.1 million-square-foot complex normally used for conventions and events, had rows upon rows of pop-up tents spaced out across the floor and nurses’ stations located in between when it opened Monday. The center has the capacity to double its number of beds to 2,000 should the need arise.
“This is going to allow our hospitals to do what they do best — that’s [to] take care of our critically ill patients, and stretch their capacity to have a chance of getting through this,” Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the New Orleans Health Department director, told WDSU-TV.
The temporary hospital that has been set up as overflow for local hospitals that are reaching capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The convention center will keep patients who have shown signs of improvement, but who still need oxygen or are still infectious.
As of Wednesday, the center housed 37 patients who no longer needed medical care, but still tested positive for the disease, Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman Aly Neel told the Times-Picayune.
Media members photograph a patient room at the convention center. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Mahaffey Event and Tent Rentals, a Memphis, Tenn.-based company, produced the tents and had crews help to set them up inside the center.
“We feel like we are saving lives,” CEO and president George Smith told the Daily Memphian.
The New Orleans area remains a hot spot for COVID-19, with more than half of the more than 17,000 known cases in Louisiana. That number grows daily, in part because the state’s testing capacity is improving. Known cases have spread to 63 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.
Phase one of the operation can house 1,000 patients with the capability to double that capacity as needed. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The number of Louisiana’s deaths attributed to the disease increased by 70, to 652 as of Wednesday.
However, there have been positive signs Louisiana has begun to “flatten the curve” as officials believe the overall rate of growth has slowed.
A patient room and motivational poster is seen inside the convention center. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The number of hospitalized patients was 2,000 as of Wednesday, dropping slightly from the day before. The number of patients requiring ventilators had dropped to 490, down from 519 on Tuesday and 552 on Monday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards told citizens not to take the positive signs to mean victory over the virus.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center spans 1.1 million square feet. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
“Just because we think we’re starting to flatten the curve doesn’t mean our job is over,” the Democrat said Tuesday. “In fact, now is the time to double down.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.