State executes deal to build 200-hospital bed alternate care facility

A 200-bed care facility is set to be built at the Georgia World Congress Center in response to the state’s expected surge in COVID-19 patients.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Sunday the State of Georgia executed a contract with Pacific Architects and Engineers, a defense and government services contractor, to construct the alternate care facility that would serve patients with mild to moderate (non-ICU) illness levels — excluding ventilator support. 

Kemp said Sunday the Georgia National Guard, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Department of Community Health, Department of Public Health, and contractors will start to prepare GWCC for the change.

Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on April 2 that, alongside his statewide shelter-in-place order, Kemp was considering the downtown convention center as a potential temporary hospital since the number of new COVID-19 cases were expected to surpass what the state has available.

A spokesperson for the governor said at the time that the GWCC, which has three interconnected buildings and has 1.5 million square feet of exhibit space, may not have the necessary infrastructure, such as for gas lines and electricity.

The governor’s office said Sunday the project will “leverage existing support” through nearby Grady Memorial Hospital with initial operating capacity available in one week. The governor will provide more details “over the next few days,” according to a news release.

“Across Georgia, we have partnered with existing healthcare infrastructure to greatly expand our surge capacity, and now we have a dedicated team building out a temporary facility at the Georgia World Congress Center for potential COVID-19 patient surge,” Kemp said in the release. “We are working around the clock to prepare for future needs and ensure the health and well-being of our state.”

Of the 12,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, 2,518 have resulted in hospitalizations, with 442 reported deaths. The state’s projected peak date is currently set for April 26, 2020, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The projection shows Georgia will still require more ICU beds and ventilators to manage the peak load.

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