An overflow hospital facility at Freeman Coliseum that has been set up since spring welcomed its first occupants this week as people escaping Hurricane Laura arrived in San Antonio.

As of Wednesday evening, 2,100 hurricane evacuees had been processed in San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. Some are staying at Freeman Coliseum, which had been set up as an overflow space if the number of local coronavirus patients exceeded bed space in area hospitals. There are no COVID-19 patients at Freeman Coliseum, but if there were to be, they would be separated from everyone else, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

“The ones that are in there are not necessarily coming from a hospital,” Wolff said. “They were not hospital patients, but they were patients in nursing homes, assisted living [facilities] that require additional assistance. So they have a whole team of medical technicians and everybody out there to help them.”

For some of those staying at Freeman Coliseum, family members are being housed in a separate area of the facility, Wolff said.

Nirenberg had said Tuesday that the City anticipated only about 50 evacuees.

“As of 12 o’clock last night it still looked like there wasn’t going to be a lot of people, as the mayor stated yesterday,” Wolff said. “There were only a few cars out there, it seemed like. But now, we’ve got a line of cars that stretch out a probably good half-a-mile or longer. So they came and came fast, and I must say we didn’t get a lot of warning about that, so we had to respond very quickly to it.”

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, was expected to make landfall early Thursday near the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.

Jennifer Herriott, deputy director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said Metro Health has set up two medical stations for evacuees at a Marriott hotel and La Quinta Inn in town. She declined to specify which ones or share which hotels were housing evacuees in San Antonio.

“Our goal is to maintain just the two medical stations at the larger places and transport people there if they need any kind of visit with a medical provider,” Herriott said.

As San Antonians are still trying to prevent coronavirus spread, Herriott said she was “pleased” to see the majority of the people downtown on Wednesday wearing masks.

“We are providing them with information about what our local regulations are … so I think they are being reminded to maintain social distance, to wear their masks, and to isolate,” she said.

Nirenberg said he’s not sure what the City’s limit for hosting evacuees would be, but making hotel rooms available for shelter is really a question of staffing those hotels.

“Our advantage is that we wrote the book on emergency response here in San Antonio and that’s all based here, we deploy from here,” Nirenberg said. “We do have thousands of hotel rooms potentially available if we can get staffed up and turn the lights on, and they’re doing that as quickly as possible. But I wouldn’t be in any other city if I was an evacuee.”

Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Bexar County continued to trend downward, with 22 fewer patients in area hospitals Wednesday. Of the 436 hospitalized, 202 were in intensive care and 134 on ventilators.

Metro Health reported 134 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total to 45,622. Officials also reported 13 more deaths, which occurred between June 21 and Aug. 25; 754 people have died of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic started.

Four of the deaths reported Wednesday were determined to be coronavirus-related by Metro Health after reviewing death certificates, Nirenberg said. Nine men and four women between ages 40 and 99 died and all had underlying medical conditions. One of the 13 died in hospice care, while three had been admitted to PAM Specialty Hospital of San Antonio, four at Christus Santa Rosa Westover Hills, two at Southwest General, and one each at Methodist Stone Oak, Northeast Methodist, and North Central Baptist. 

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

● 5 Hispanic men between ages 40 and 99
● 3 Hispanic women between ages 50 and 79
● 2 white men between ages 70 and 99
● 2 men of unknown ethnicity between ages 60 and 79
● 1 white woman in her 60s

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.