Emails detail state plans to turn Georgia World Congress Center into massive hospital

ATLANTA — The state is making preparations in case hospitals are overloaded with coronavirus patients.

As Channel 2 Action News was first to report, the Georgia World Congress Center could be used as an emergency medical facility.

Our investigative partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed an open record request to obtain emails from the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher went through those emails that reveal more information about the state’s plans to turn the massive convention into a large hospital if needed in the fight against coronavirus.

The plans are laid out in emails from March 23 among senior GEMA officials including director Homer Bryson.

Included in the emails, the state has in mind creating three 200-bed medical facilities to support coronavirus patients

In addition to the World Congress Center, the Savannah Convention Center is mentioned and an unnamed site in Macon.


The Army Corps of Engineers would provide site prep including installing modular components and providing power, heating and air conditioning.

About 70% of the facility would be for intensive care patients.

The emails said FEMA would be responsible for stocking the facility with emergency equipment.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center told the AJC, “We are prepared and ready to assist when called upon."

Will it happen? The plan clearly hasn't been activated, or we'd see evidence of it.

What we know is that additional beds will be coming online sooner than expected at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, which is opening its 400-bed addition several months early.

Channel 2’s Justin Farmer has learned that people within the movie industry are also doing their part to help with any possible hospital bed shortage.

More than a 100,000 Georgians work in film and TV production. The industry is currently in a full standstill. There are no projects shooting right now.

But some of the workers who help build sets are working 20 hours a day building hospital rooms.

On a typical workday, Scott Miller told Farmer that he and his colleagues would be building sets for shows you might see on Disney+, Netflix or blockbusters in the theaters.

“We are building hospital rooms out of shipping containers for COVID-19 patients,” Miller said.

But in a crucial pivot, Miller is now a construction coordinator building mobile hospital rooms for GEMA.

The crews are making fully functional hospital rooms out of steel containers, the kinds you’d see on a huge shipping tanker.