In anticipation of a surge in coronavirus cases, an alternate care center has been set up at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The one-thousand-bed facility represents part of a state plan to prepare for a possible surge in critical COVID-19 cases. Alternate care centers like the one in Columbus have been set up in five convention centers and other buildings to handle less serious cases.
“This is something that will operate more like a field hospital than a typical hospital you might be used to,” Central Ohio Trauma System CEO Robert Falcone said. “It will be used for COVID-19 patients who are not sick enough to require full hospital care but are not well enough to go home. They will come directly from one of our Columbus hospitals after a period of evaluation. We hope we will not need to open this facility, but it is ready. We went from concept to hospital in two weeks. I think that’s an amazing tribute to our ability to collaborate for the public good.”
The Ohio National Guard, Ohio Health, Mt. Carmel, Ohio State and Nationwide Children's Hospital systems, as well as state, county, and city health departments all pitched in to get the alternate care center ready. Falcone says it's prepared to begin taking patients with 72 hours notice. But it may not be needed. Because of aggressive efforts to delay elective surgeries and find additional internal space, hospitals across the state have more room than ever before. And state orders to stay at home and practice social distancing have slowed the spread of the coronavirus.
“If we stay the course, we may never need to open this facility,” Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther said. “That would be an incredible victory for the people of central Ohio.”
While public efforts have helped to flatten the curve of growing coronavirus cases, Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said central Ohio could expect a peak in cases within the next two weeks, and a decision will be made then on whether to activate the alternate care facility. Among the more than 7,200 coronavirus cases in Ohio, there are at least 714 in Columbus with 8 fatalities. While older people and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable, the Columbus cases skew younger.
“Our largest group of confirmed cases of COVID-19 here in Columbus and central Ohio are those between the ages of 20 and 29 years of age,” Dr. Roberts said. “For this group, I really want to remind you that you need to stay at home as well. By you staying at home, you are protecting others who are vulnerable whether that be a young child or someone with a compromised immune system or an older adult.”
Roberts said the racial disparity that has been noted in other cities is also present in Columbus. African Americans account for 39% of all the confirmed cases, despite making up only 29% of the population.