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Knox Co. alternative care site task force prepares for the worst, prays for the best

The Knox Expo Center is the task force's primary site, but it is looking into other options as well.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — In response to national research and statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Knox County created an alternative care site task force, led by Dr. Keith Gray, Chief Medical Officer for UT Medical Center and hospital representative.

This task force is tasked with putting together a capacity surge plan to ensure health care providers have adequate resources should confirmed cases of coronavirus dramatically increase in the county in the coming weeks.

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Dr. Gray said under current conditions, the bed system could surge to twice the current capacity, ICU beds could surge to more than twice the capacity, and ventilators could surge to 3 times the capacity.

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Overall, he said the hospital system can handle roughly 4,000 patients during a surge.

This is why the task force was created and an alternative care site plan was developed.

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The Knox Expo Center is the task force's primary site, but it is looking into other options as well.

Governor Bill Lee said about 350 beds will be included at the center on Friday, April 3.

RELATED: Gov. Lee: We're prepping for virus surge, about 350 Knoxville and Chattanooga beds will be added to help in fight against COVID-19

As far as staffing, Dr. Gray said the task force looking at different models to adequately staff and maximize health systems. He said having trained individuals who are either not in healthcare or haven’t been in a long time will become very important for staffing pool.

However, the task force has not recruited yet, as it is still in the strategic planning phase.

"We have to prepare for the worst and pray for the best," Dr. Gray said.

Dr. Gray also stressed the importance of continuing to take precautions, like social distancing, to keep a dramatic surge from occurring.