Dallas County, Governor Abbott Joust About Overflow Hospital In KBH Convention Center

Alan Scaia
April 06, 2020 - 6:09 am
Dallas Convention Center/Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center

Steven Pickering

DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - The chief of staff for Governor Greg Abbott is questioning whether Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins intends to use Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a "transition hospital" for recovering COVID-19 patients.

The convention center was to be used as a facility for patients who still needed observation but did not need ventilators or acute care. The convention center was being set up with 250 beds with space to expand.

Luis Saenz, the governor's chief of staff, said he had been told Jenkins told the Department of Defense he did not intend to use the convention center after all.

"I have also been informed that your decision is at odds with the needs and concerns articulated by Mayor Eric Johnson--as well as the needs of other local officials in the Dallas County area," Saenz wrote.

The governor's office says National Guard Major General Mike Stone contacted the office to say Jenkins no longer intended to use the convention center for medical purposes.

Jenkins rejected the claim.

"It's a very odd letter in that it intimates we don't want the federal resource, the hospital, at the convention center when, actually, we are working hours and hours a day to stand up that resource," he says.

The letter said Jenkins must "make clear acceptance of these facilities" by 5 p.m. Monday or the federal government would dedicate the funding and manpower elsewhere.

Read: Governor Abbott's Chief Of Staff's letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins

"So, who knows?" Jenkins said. "We certainly would be happy to write back a letter reiterating what everyone here who's actually working on the response knows, which is we are working hard to stand up that asset."

Jenkins said he has spoken to Governor Greg Abbott just once since the outbreak started, during a conference call two weeks before the state-wide "stay at home" order was issued.

"It is different than it was with Rick Perry," Abbott says. "During Ebola, we might talk once a day."

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement saying he "share[s> the governor's concerns" and was "stunned and deeply disappointed to hear about Dallas County's position." 

"This hospital is an important asset that we have worked proactively, collaboratively, and tirelessly with our federal and state partners to obtain for our region. I am alarmed that these medical resources are now at risk as we begin preparing for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases. I am committed to continuing to work with our partners to open this facility as quickly as we can to help serve our community’s needs.

"The City of Dallas has acted swiftly and aggressively to slow the spread of COVID-19. We cannot afford inaction now," Johnson wrote.

​The city says 19 hospitals reported their capacity Saturday. Johnson ordered daily reports to his office starting last week. The report released Sunday afternoon had numbers through Saturday:

Total beds: 5,148

Beds occupied: 2,671

Total ICU beds: 772

ICU beds occupied: 462

Total ventilators: 865

Ventilators in use: 302​