Orange County leaders consider opening convention center as overflow hospital

County leaders say they are preparing for a situation where the enormous space would be needed to serve as a makeshift hospital. WFTV's Lauren Seabrook reports.

ORLANDO, Fla. — As the number of coronavirus cases in Orange County continues to climb, leaders are looking at what the next few weeks could bring.

The county is considering the Orange County Convention Center as a site to serve as an overflow hospital, if needed.

It’s something that's already being done in New York and Detroit to make sure they won't have to turn away any patients.

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The Florida Health Department reported Tuesday evening that 95 people were hospitalized in Orange County for COVID-19.

A place where fictional superheroes unite year after year for the MegaCon convention, could be filled with real superheroes if our community needs help to save lives.

"We will petition through the state for the potential use of our convention center of an alternative hospital site,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Demings meets often with Orlando Health and AdventHealth leaders on how COVID-19 is impacting the hospital systems.

He ordered a countywide stay-at-home order a week before the state did, to prevent hospitals from overloading.

Now Demings says those leaders are looking through the convention center to see what they would need for a worst-case-scenario.

It would mean spots used to display boats during trade shows could be filled with hospital beds instead.

Earliest predictions show Florida hospitalizations peaking on April 21, but Demings said some of the newest models from our local health leaders show as late as May 6.

And if social-distancing restrictions are let up too soon, Demings said, "there's discussion about the potential for a secondary, or a second peak period of time."

Currently, about 60 COVID-19 patients are using ventilators in Orange County and 448 are still available. That will change though, as the positive numbers increase each day and the shortage of medical supplies is severe.

"We have not come close to receiving the supplies that Orange County needs," acting emergency manager Lauraleigh Avery.

Hospital CEOs said if the projections of the surge stay on track, they believe they can absorb the need with existing capacity. But as Demings mentioned, this all seems to change day-to-day, and they want to be ready if it does.