McAllen Convention Center turns into a COVID-19 unit


MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — The McAllen Convention Center that once hosted concerts, weddings and graduations is now holding COVID-19 patients.

Tuesday, the transformation was revealed as the McAllen Convention Center on Ware Rd. welcomed their first patients through the doors.

“I never envisioned that our convention center with all of our great things and fun events we have had would turn into a hospital,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.

Darling and other city staff welcomed Governor Greg Abbott to the facility he has been planning for weeks now.

“Hospitals will not be overloaded. Hospitals will be able to fully address all of the health care needs of patients that arrive at those hospitals knowing that overflow facilities like this will exist to take care of additional patients,” said Governor Greg Abbott.

Abbott and other Hidalgo County staff such as County Judge Richard Cortez toured the facility Tuesday and met with hospital staff that are now assigned there.

“We have over 7,000 personnel assigned statewide to this incident right now and the far majority of the providers are right here from the Rio Grande Valley,” said Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Department of Emergency Management.

The first COVID-19 patient arrived Tuesday afternoon to receive treatment.

The majority will be patients that require medical attention but do have a good chance of survival.

“The ones that need to be in ICU we want to stay in ICU, this is a step down from the ones that need to be fully vented, one patient to one provider ratio. This is a patient that shouldn’t be as sick as somebody that’s in an ICU and somebody we fully expect to recover and go home,” said Chief Kidd.

As of Tuesday, there are 50 patient beds that are up and operational.

Staff do have the space and resources to put at least 250 beds but will do so as needed based on local hospital capacity.

Nurses, doctors, ambulances and equipment all arrived this week as well.

Our KVEO crew counted at least eight charter buses transporting hospital staff to the convention center Tuesday afternoon.

Ambulances and EMTs have already been stationed outside the McAllen Convention Center.

The facility will be open as long as it takes until local hospitals start to return to normal capacity levels, according to Gov. Abbott.

“The healthcare needs of the people in this region are our priority in the state of Texas and this is one of the strategies that we are doing to make sure those needs are met,” said Abbott.

Tuesday was the third time Abbott has visited the RGV in three weeks.

Abbott said a similar facility will be set up in Harlingen soon.

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