coronavirus

Fort Worth Coordinates Coronavirus Response in Emergency Operations Center

Center has been fully staffed for three weeks

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Deep inside an unmarked building not far from City Hall, Fort Worth city leaders are coordinating the response to the coronavirus.

Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis gave NBC 5 a tour of the Emergency Operations Center.

"Here at the front, you have a situational awareness table,” Davis said, pointing to a group of employees huddled around computer screens.

They track what's going on, even monitoring local TV news broadcasts, so the city can respond in real-time.

Other groups focus on supplies -- searching for hard-to-find protective equipment for first responders.

"And they've been working tirelessly to make sure they're in contact with vendors, working with the city purchasing department,” Davis said.

The emergency center employs about 12 people full-time but swells to several times that number during a crisis like this.

The mayor, city manager, police chief, fire chief, and other city leaders huddle around a large table for daily conference calls.

Everyone walking into the center gets their temperature checked to avoid the virus from spreading among those trying to stop it.

Just off the main room is a small TV studio, where Mayor Betsy Price keeps the city updated.

"We can stop it. We can slow it down," Price said on Facebook Live. "So everyone, let's take this seriously."

Tarrant County on Monday confirmed 16 new Covid-19 cases and more than 80 “provisional” cases which haven’t yet been fully investigated.

Inside the EOC, it all seems remarkably calm and under control -- even as they brace for an expected spike in people getting sick.

"The next couple weeks is going to start getting really busy with cases and with hospitals,” Davis said. “We've been having our planning, looking at what surge capacity looks like."

Like how to keep ambulances running.

And hospitals from getting overwhelmed.

"We started planning for what two weeks out, what four weeks out, what six weeks out looks like,” the fire chief said.

And all without a roadmap in what, for everyone, is unchartered territory.

"I think everyone in here has confidence in each other that we can do this,” Davis said.

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