Cal Poly Rec Center may serve as an overflow hospital through 2020

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Yet to see a single patient, the Cal Poly Rec Center stands ready as an emergency overflow hospital for the COVID-19 pandemic, with the capacity to house 900-plus beds if needed.

That will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.
VACANT San Luis Obispo County will continue to maintain an alternative care site at the Cal Poly Rec Center in the event of a COVID-19 patient surge, at a $140,000 expense each month. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • VACANT San Luis Obispo County will continue to maintain an alternative care site at the Cal Poly Rec Center in the event of a COVID-19 patient surge, at a $140,000 expense each month.

SLO County and Cal Poly officials confirmed this week that the $765,000 alternative care site opened on April 8 will remain available possibly for the rest of 2020, as the community continues to work to demonstrate to the state that it is equipped for surges in COVID-19 patients.

“We’re so grateful to [Cal Poly] ... to allow us to maintain that site, which is one of our most important strategies for being able to reopen the community,” SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said at a May 11 press conference. “We have the ability to care for people in an out-of-hospital location, should the hospitals need that additional bed coverage.”



Hospital capacity has not been an issue in SLO County thus far in the pandemic. As of May 13, just four patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, with two of those patients in intensive care units.

“We’ve had very few people in the hospital. The hospitals continue to have a lot of availability,” Borenstein said. “And so our alternative care site stands ready, but unutilized.”

As long as the facility is unoccupied by patients, Cal Poly may decide to open parts of it for normal use. SLO County Emergency Services Director Wade Horton named the pool as one facility that could reopen.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier told New Times that a partial reopening may occur in “near future, as long as it remains unused for COVID-19 patients.”

“These are ongoing discussions, and we have no other details to share at this time,” Lazier said in an email.

SLO County continues to spend $140,000 per month to maintain the gym-turned-hospital, which is fully outfitted with medical infrastructure, equipment, and technology.

The county is bearing the full cost of the facility, while receiving volunteer assistance from a variety of other agencies and organizations. Down the road, SLO County will look to FEMA for financial disaster relief. ∆

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