Dallas County Leaders Vote To Limit Jenkins' Power, Discuss Temporary Hospital

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Dallas County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to limit some of the powers of the office of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Jenkins has become the face of the local COVID-19 response, providing almost daily updates and using executive powers to make sweeping decisions for the county’s response.

Commissioners passed an amendment that requires Jenkins to now notify commissioners before he places any more restrictions on “essential businesses,” giving them time to call a meeting.

Jenkins must also get a majority vote from commissioners before he extends the current shelter-in-place order past April 30.

Commissioners also discussed the work needed to transition the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients.

In a briefing by AECOM, a company contracted to coordinate the county’s response, commissioners were briefed on what services the county is expected to provide and if those costs would be reimbursed by FEMA.

Executives for AECOM told commissioners, as it stands now, FEMA was expected to reimburse the county 100% for costs related to the hospital, but the details were still being worked out between FEMA and the Trump administration.

The U.S. Navy will handle the medical services and costs, while Dallas County is expected to provide “wrap-around-services” like food, security, transportation for patients and more.

The cost is likely in the millions of dollars, with a current estimated cost of $16,000-$21,000 per bed for a three-month period.

The convention center will be designed to accommodate 250 beds but could expand to 1,400 beds.

The temporary hospital will only be used if North Texas hospitals see a surge in cases, according to Jenkins. If that happens, the hospital will be used as a step-down facility.

Jenkins has said COVID-19 patients would only be moved to the convention center once they are well enough to leave the hospital but not yet ready to return home.

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