The Cal Poly Recreation Center is now a functioning alternate care site for coronavirus patients in San Luis Obispo County. 

On Wed. April 8, the first phase of the facility will be open to patients not sick enough to be hospitalized, but unable to recover at home, according to Tenet Health Central Coast CEO and Alternative Care Site Group Lead Mark Lisa. 

“When the hospitals are severely impacted, this facility will decant those folks that don’t necessarily need to be in a hospital,” Lisa said.

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Video by Sam Spitz

The alternative care site is being built in seven phases. The first phase includes 165 beds in the Recreation Center’s front basketball court area equipped with nasal cannulas (delivers oxygen through the nose), oxygen masks and IVs. It is in the final checkout stage of the oxygen system and flow regulators, according to Care Site Construction Lead Ty Safreno.

The facility is also equipped with cell phone and iPad chargers so the patients’ families can visit them virtually.

“We designed this in phases, so we can grow and learn from phase one,” Lisa said.

The next few phases are currently being built in the lower and upper basketball court areas of the Main Gym, where winter graduation ceremonies take place, on the west side of the building. Phase two will be ready by Friday, April 10 and hold 136 beds. 

The Robert A. Mott Athletics Center will act as the last phase if there is a demand for more space, according to Lisa. The facility can hold up to 931 beds, which would require 600 medical staff.

“It’s possible that we could see no patients, but it’s better to be ready,” Lisa said.

There are currently 230 medical care workers signed up to volunteer, but there is still room for expansion, according to Health Care Access Division Manager Michelle Shorsman.

Medical staff will come from The San Luis Obispo County Medical Reserve Corps (SLOMRC), a group of trained volunteers who are practicing, retired or employed healthcare professionals.

According to District Supervisor Lynn Compton, funding for the facility was provided by the county and is expected to be reimbursed by state and federal funds.

Lisa said if patients get sicker they will be transported back to a hospital, but if they get better they can go home.

“We’re going to make it as comfortable as possible, yet control as much as possible as we can to keep everybody safe,” Lisa said.

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