Patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 will be treated at an alternative care site set up at UT Health San Antonio­ Regional Campus Laredo.

Operated by Ashbritt, a rapid-response emergency management and logistics contractor, the 30-bed alternative care site will start receiving patients in early February. The alternative care site will free up space at Laredo area hospitals and reduce the need to transport patients elsewhere in Texas for care. The Laredo campus, one of three potential alternative care sites visited by state and local officials in January, is located directly between Laredo Medical Center and Laredo Specialty Hospital.Alternative care site set up at UT Health San Antonio-Regional Campus Laredo

UT Health San Antonio Chief of Police Michael J. Parks has helped coordinate a range of logistics for standing up the alternative care site, including relocating campus staff, ensuring needs for utilities are met, addressing security of personnel and patients, and securing access to buildings. About 50 clinicians will be working at the alternative care site, which will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Parks said.

“We’re there lending whatever support we can, not only to Laredo but to the greater South Texas area that is impacted,” Parks said. “It’s a way for us to do our part in some small way and a further extension of the mission for the health science center.”

The Laredo area experienced a COVID-19 surge in January, and on Feb. 4 ranked third among metro areas with at least 50,000 people for average daily new cases relative to their population in the last two weeks — 109.2 cases per 100,000 population — and sixth among metro areas in cumulative case rates since the beginning of the pandemic — 147.5 cases per 1,000, according to data reported by The New York Times .

“The UT Health San Antonio–Regional Campus Laredo is happy to provide needed resources to help our community during this terrific surge of the pandemic,” said Gladys Keene, M.D., MPH, regional dean of the Regional Campus Laredo. “We continue to live up to our motto of working together to make lives better for our community of friends, neighbors and loved ones.”

The alternative care site is expected to operate for 30 to 60 days and includes a 40-foot x 132-foot medical tent in a parking lot off of North Bartlett Avenue, a tent for equipment and supplies, and temporary restroom facilities. A small number of administrative personnel will be allowed to use office space in the library, located in the academic building, which will also be used to stage equipment and supplies.

Ashbritt, the alternative care site operator, is working in partnership with IEM Medical. It is providing all wrap-around services and medical support including all management, coordination, financial support and facilities, according to a letter from the City of Laredo to UT Health San Antonio requesting assistance for the alternative care site.