ATLANTA (AP) — One of the nation's largest convention centers will reopen on Monday with “surge beds" to treat COVID-19 patients as critical care units across Georgia are becoming increasingly full, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday.
The Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta will begin receiving patients Monday with 60 beds initially and increase to 120 beds if needed, Kemp said.
“These additional hospital beds will provide relief to surrounding healthcare facilities while providing top notch care for patients," Kemp said in a statement.
Reopening the convention center comes as Georgia hospitals have been voicing concerns about bed space with the surge of cases.
The 3,200 people in hospitals on Thursday was a record since the pandemic began, and critical care beds statewide are 87% full. Two of the state’s smaller hospital regions — one around Athens and one in east central Georgia that includes Vidalia and Dublin — each reported one critical care bed available on Wednesday.
Deaths and new confirmed cases of the respiratory illness remain at high levels in Georgia. Georgia’s confirmed death toll rose to 3,671 Thursday, and the 14-day average of deaths rose to a record 41.
Although symptoms of COVID-19 are often mild and most people recover, some worsen and die.
Grady Memorial Hospital will serve as the lead hospital for clinical oversight for the beds at the Georgia World Congress Center, Kemp said.
The Georgia World Congress Center is the fourth-largest convention center in the U.S., according to its website. It has 1.5 million square feet of exhibit space, 12 exhibit halls and 98 meeting rooms.
The decision to reopen the Georgia World Congress Center for COVID-19 patients comes after the state in April set up a 200-bed overflow hospital in the convention center, but later dismantled it.