SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) As of Thursday morning, the number of Hurricane Laura evacuees in San Antonio topped 4,000. Mayor Ron Nirenberg is confident the city is capable of handling an emergency response of this magnitude.
“Our advantage is that we wrote the book on emergency response here in San Antonio,” said Nirenberg. “I wouldn’t want to be in any other city if I was an evacuee.”
In the past, San Antonio has opened up school gymnasiums and other large single-room facilities for evacuees, but during a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday evening, the mayor said they’re using hotel rooms because they want to avoid congregate settings where the coronavirus could easily spread.
“We’ve got a lot of empty rooms in hotels around this city, but we don’t have staff, so people are having to recall staff to get those rooms operational,” said Nirenberg.
The mayor and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said they didn’t get much warning from the state about how many evacuees would be heading this way.
“They came and they came fast, and I must say we didn’t get a lot of warning about that, so we’ve had to respond very quickly,” said Wolff.
A field hospital at Freeman Expo Hall designed to take in overflow patients from hospitals overcrowded with coronavirus victims was never used for that purpose, but it’s been evacuated as part of the hurricane emergency response. Wolff says about 80 evacuees from nursing homes and assisted living facilities are staying there, and their families are in an adjacent area.
Freeman Coliseum will be a staging area for first responders, if needed.
“They’ll be staying at the coliseum as they begin to respond to this,” said Wolff. From there, the emergency responders would be dispatched to areas where they’re needed.
Wednesday, the line of vehicles waiting to get into the processing center in a parking lot on Gembler Road stretched about half a mile.
San Antonio Metro Health and University Hospital have set up medical stations at two of the largest hotels housing evacuees. Workers are helping with everything from medications to dialysis appointments.