With Austin’s COVID-19 isolation facility filling up, city looks to lease a second site

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A hallway leading to rooms for guests at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Isolation Facility. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

Austin (KXAN) — The city of Austin confirms it is considering options for a second location to lease as a COVID-19 isolation facility. At this point, no decision has been, made and no location has been identified, the city said.

At a briefing of Travis County Commissioners Tuesday, Austin Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the first COVID-19 isolation facility the city established (called ISOFAC1) is “approaching capacity.”

Beds in a room for a patient at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Isolation Facility. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

“We are working on executing a contract to open ISOFAC 2,” Escott told commissioners. “And we do have plans for, you know, progressive rollout of additional facilities as needed.”

The first Isolation Facility opened March 22 as a safe place for people to quarantine if they have COVID-19 or fear they may have it, so that they don’t risk contaminating others they may live with.

The facility is not for COVID-19 patients with the most severe complications, but rather those who need a place to wait out the rest of their time and avoid infecting others.

Escott added, “I am grateful to see that more folks are utilizing those facilities now as a safe place to isolate themselves from the family to help break that cycle of transmission in the household.”

The city tells KXAN that as of July 15, there are 87 guests staying at ISOFAC1 with around 100 additional rooms available. one month ago when KXAN toured this facility, 27 people were staying there.

The total capacity for ISOFAC1 is 246 rooms, the city says, which includes the number of beds that would need to be used in the event of a surge. The numbers can fluctuate, the city said, and at any given time there are 30 to 40 rooms out of service for cleaning and maintenance.

Last month, Austin-Travis County EMS told KXAN that the city’s lease for ISOFAC 1 lasted through the end of July, but the city confirms now that the lease has been extended through September 30.

A staff member at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Isolation Facility takes an intake call. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

Ideally, the city would like to have seven to 14 days to set up a second isolation facility, though it can be done more quickly than that.

When KXAN asked if it is possible that people could be turned away from the first isolation facility when it reaches capacity, a city spokesperson replied: “In theory, there is the potential that people may be turned away, but that’s not something we anticipate happening, and it’s why we’ve been planning for a 2nd facility if it’s needed.”

The first isolation facility has also been a resource for first responders and public safety personnel. The city said that presently, there are three first responders staying at the facility, and 37 in total have stayed there since it opened.

It is free to isolate at the facility, and those who stay there also have WiFi, TV, an in-room phone, three daily meals, mental health care, and minor medical care provided.

If you or someone you know would like to stay at this facility, call their intake like at 512-810-7554.

Note: Public information officers have asked press not to share the location because they have seen some people arrive at these locations without going through the proper channels.

People qualified to stay at the isolation facility include:

  • people exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but have not been tested
  • if they are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or if they have tested positive for COVID-19
  • public safety employees, health care workers, and critical infrastructure workers

Typically, people stay at the facility for 14 days, but because guests aren’t governed by any control orders, they can decide when to end their stay whenever they choose to.

The city has issued new public safety announcements in English and in Spanish about isolating safely.

A room full of supplies, toiletries, cleaning tools, protective equipment, and other items is available for free at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Isolation Facility (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

Austin and Travis County are currently leasing six facilities for COVID-19-related housing or isolation purposes.

In addition to the isolation facility for the general public, Austin-Travis County is also leasing a facility in Williamson County where nursing home residents can go to isolate.

The city is also leasing four hotels at ProLodges (Protective Lodges), which are places to provide lodging for people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications, including people with underlying medical conditions and those that are immunosuppressed.

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