Alstom site to be used for COVID-19 patients instead of Chattanooga Convention Center

An aerial view of the Alstom site as shown in this 2011 staff file photo.

A building on the Alstom property is being considered as an alternative site for COVID-19 patients, rather than the recently announced plan to use the Chattanooga Convention Center, due to its higher capacity.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said at a news conference late Monday that the plan to use the convention center had been punted over the weekend and replaced with a contingency plan to use a 400,000-square-foot building on the Alstom property which can hold around 1,500 patients, nearly three times the capacity of the convention center, which was estimated around 350.

"We're preparing for the worst and we're anticipating the worst in a surge," Coppinger said.

When asked if the sudden change in plans indicated an expectation of more than 350 overflow patients, Coppinger said no.

"We're all hopeful that doesn't happen, but we don't want to be caught in a situation where we have underprepared in the community," Coppinger added. "There's no big revelation in changing the site as far as any modeling anticipating more or less, it's just simply that we continue to prepare for the worst case scenario in hopes that we don't need it."

Coppinger was unable to provide any information on how bad of a surge or when a surge is expected in Hamilton County, but said officials are preparing for a surge "sooner rather than later" to make sure medical care is available if and when it hits.

The riverfront Alstom property, known by some as "Big Blue," was once owned by Combustion Engineering and was Chattanooga's largest employer, making fossil fuel and nuclear steam generating equipment.