A month after opening, the alternate care site at Cal Poly has not seen a single patient.
The alternate care site opened April 8 for phase one, ready for patients not sick enough to be hospitalized, but unable to recover at home, Tenet Health Central Coast CEO and Alternative Care Site Group Lead Mark Lisa previously told Mustang News.
The site is now is fully operational, but has not been used. It is intended to offer acute medical care in the event that hospitals are overwhelmed and incapable of providing adequate care for all their patients.
There are seven phases in total with one phase already complete. The next five phases are all currently at varying stages of completion, yet no further construction has taken place. The final phase, which would expand the site to Mott Gym and include 300 more beds, has not been established yet, according to San Luis Obispo County Public Information Officer for the COVID-19 response Michelle Shoresman.
Phases two through four, which would include the addition of 400 beds in the Recreation Center, will be constructed and opened within a few days, according to Shoresman. There are currently 165 beds available — part of their first phase — but the site is projected to have about 930 beds when all phases are completed.
Since the site has not seen any patients yet, they are instead using the time to train over 250 volunteers through the Medical Reserve Corps as well as accumulate additional resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), Shoresman said.
The alternate care site cost about $4.5 million, which included construction and estimated operations costs within an eight-week period, according to Shoresman. This was funded through the county’s contingency fund, which provided approximately $26 million this year, according to the county’s emergency website.
There is no plan for more alternate care sites to be established in other parts of the county, Shoresman said.
The projected 930 beds that the alternate care site at Cal Poly would provide is an estimate for the worst-case scenario in the county, Shoresman said. She added that she cannot imagine a scenario where an additional site would have to be constructed.
The county will not begin phased reopening, after Gov. Gavin Newsom denied the county’s request to to implement the START Guide. Although, Shoresman said the Cal Poly alternate care site is still necessary.
“The Cal Poly alternate care site actually gives us some security and some ability to plan for that phased, slow re-opening,” Shoresman said. “The governor has stated counties need to have in place the ability for their healthcare system to handle a possible surge in the future, and that’s precisely what the alternate care site helps SLO County do.”
The site was chosen because Cal Poly “has a duty to the people of California to assist in the response to public emergencies and the requests of the governor and local authorities,” University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.
The Recreational Center was picked due to its large size, access to water and electricity, its access by public roads that do not go through campus and its primarily hard surfaces that can be easily sanitized.
Cal Poly students, faculty and staff will not be able to use the Recreational Center if there are COVID-19 patients present — only essential trade workers that provide service in case of an infrastructure emergency will be allowed to enter, according to Lazier.
It is unknown now how long the site will exist, but the university is communicating with the county to work out a plan, according to Shoresman.
As of Saturday, March 9, there are six coronavirus patients hospitalized in the county with two patients in intensive care. As local hospitals are able to handle these cases, the alternate care site is needed at this time, Shoresman said.
“So far, our four hospitals have been able to accommodate the number of patients that we’ve had so far,” Shoresman said. “I hope we don’t get to the point where we use all 930 beds, in fact, I think we would all be very happy if we never used a single bed.”