Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip:

Downtown Convention Center Identified As Site For Overflow COVID-19 Patients In Case Of Surge

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is slated to house overflow patients from local hospitals in the case of a COVID-19 surge

If a surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelms local health systems, Allegheny County plans to use the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate patients.

“The purpose of this site would be to allow hospital systems to transfer their least acute patients to open up additional hospital space for acute COVID-19 patients,” said Chief Matt Brown of Allegheny County Emergency Services in an emailed statement. “There is not a current need for an alternate care site in our community. We are preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.”

Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, said that the best way to prepare for a surge is to prevent a surge. People can do this by staying home as much as possible and practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing.

But if local health systems are unable to meet COVID-19 needs, the county’s medical reserve corps is standing by.

“A group of professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including practicing or retired medical and non-medical professionals, and support staff, is prepared to provide additional support if needed,” she said.

A growing number of people say an effective way to stem the spread of coronavirus and a COVID-19 surge is to have everyone cover their noses and mouths while in public with masks. This prevents people who may not know they have coronavirus from spreading their germs to others.

The county health department said it's OK to wear homemade face coverings, but it is urging people to hold off buying medical-grade masks so there are more for health care workers.

“If an ideal world, where there are unlimited supplies, sure that would be great [to have everyone wear a mask,]” said Bogen. “If we did recommend masks for all, I’m afraid our health care workers who most desperately need them wouldn’t have them.”

If people want to wear non-medical masks, including those that are homemade, Bogen said they should be careful to not touch the masks or their faces, to wash hands before and after wearing the masks, and to continue to practice social distancing.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.