AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council approved a 31-day lease with a north Austin hotel to create a second isolation facility for COVID-19 patients and others who may need a place to self-isolate.
This particular hotel has 150 beds and will provide emergency housing, isolation, and support services for the 31 days with the option to extend the lease for two additional 31-day terms.
This location will be called Isolation Facility 2 (or IsoFac#2). City of Austin spokesperson Sam Haynes explained to KXAN that this would be the same kind of facility as Isolation Facility #1 in that anyone in Austin or Travis County who needs a place to self isolate with minimal medical attention can go there.
In early April, city officials confirmed to KXAN that a northeast Austin hotel was being used as the city’s first isolation facility, with a lease term starting on March 25, 2020. As of Wednesday night, the city says, Isolation Facility #1 had 80 people staying there. These isolation facilities are for people who have tested positive or are symptomatic with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization.
The city has asked the media not to show these facilities or publicize their addresses.
“We are really trying to prevent people from walking up to the facility, we’re not able to accommodate walk-up appointments to stay there,” Haynes explained.
City documents show the 31-day lease for Isolation Facility #2 could cost up to $2.1 million, including the cost of meals for patients and staff which are provided there. Each additional 31-day term Austin renews the lease for after that would cost $394,087.50. This funding will come from the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year Emergency Reserve Fund for the city.
City employees staffing the facility will get meals each day. People staying there will too, with meals expected to cost the city $62.84 per occupant each day, with breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack.
Staffing at the isolation facilities
Based on the meal estimates, it appears this facility is expecting to have 30 staff members.
The city explained that because this hotel is not operational as an isolation facility yet, there are still some details to be ironed out about how it will work. But the city said that generally these isolation facilities will be staffed by City of Austin employees, Travis County employees and hotel staff. Hotel staff will be working in these facilities to keep up with maintenance, front desk services and making no-contact meal deliveries to people staying there.
At Isolation Facility #1, the city says Austin Travis County EMS, Austin Fire Department, Austin Police and civillian city and county staff are present, as well as two staffing companies that help with medical support in case emergencies happen. The medical staff can also help with providing over the counter medication needed by the people staying there.
Isolation Facility #1 will have more staff than Isolation Facility #2, a city spokesperson explained, because the team overseeing these facilities will have its command post at Facility #1.
Other facilities for isolation in Austin
In total, the city has four operational facilities for COVID-19 isolation and with Thursday’s council approval, a fifth will be brought online.
In addition to the two isolation facilities, the city has two protective lodges (the city calls these ProLodges). These lodges are also hotels, but these hotels are used exclusively for people experiencing homelessness who need a place to isolate.
The city also working with a nursing home facility in Round Rock that is used for nursing home residents who have tested positive with COVID-19 and can’t continue staying at their current nursing homes.
None of these facilities come at any cost to the people isolating there, the city said, everything including the meals provided should be free. These are not facilities you can sign up to go to on your own. After you test positive or someone you’ve been in contact with tests positive, you’ll hear from a doctor or public health employee who can refer you.