UCLA may convert campus facilities to hospitals for COVID-19 patients if needed
The Luskin Conference Center and other UCLA facilities may be converted into hospitals if needed in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Jintak Han
March 22, 2020 7:13 p.m.
This post was updated March 25 at 12:30 p.m.
UCLA is prepared to convert several campus locations such as the Luskin Conference Center to rooms for COVID-19 patients if necessary, a university spokesperson said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference Saturday that the state is working with the University of California and California State University systems to convert dormitories into hospitals in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The rooms may also house those experiencing homelessness, who are especially vulnerable to the virus, Newsom said.
In response, the UC has begun taking inventory of the available space to weigh the feasibility of retrofitting, said Stett Holbrook, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, in an emailed statement.
“At no time would students on campus be commingled with those being sheltered temporarily,” Holbrook said. “UC will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff.”
Retrofitting dormitories is a joint effort between the UCOP, each UC campus, Sacramento and various state agencies, and all UC campuses have responded positively to the proposal, Holbrook said.
However, UCLA notified the UCOP that it will reserve residential halls for students who need on-campus housing, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.
Instead, the university will convert buildings such as the Luskin Conference Center and the UCLA Guest House if necessary, Vazquez said.
In total, UCLA will be able to contribute about 400 rooms to combat a growing shortage of medical facilities and supplies in the United States. Los Angeles County had 870 beds available for COVID-19 patients on Thursday and is not experiencing a shortage or surge in demand as of Friday.
The pandemic has put unprecedented stress on the California health system. Newsom said the number of COVID-19 patients requiring treatment may overload the state’s medical surge capacity of 10,000 beds by almost double. The state has also enlisted support from Elon Musk and other entrepreneurs in manufacturing ventilators, masks and other supplies.
Newsom said the state is exploring other avenues of expanding the state’s medical capacity and aims to secure 51,000 rooms across the state to house those experiencing homelessness.
“Our most vulnerable Californians include the homeless: 108,000 unsheltered homeless in the state of California,” Newsom said. “We’re trying to address the acuity of the crisis. In the moment, that’s getting people off the streets, getting them into these units and (anticipating) the challenge in three, four or five, six months … as this current crisis begins to shift.
President Donald Trump also approved Newsom’s request Sunday to declare California under a state of major disaster. Trump will send the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship, to Los Angeles, adding 1,000 beds to the county’s health care system.