stony brook

New York wants residence halls at 2 universities to be used as hospitals for coronavirus

March 23, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to convert space at Stony Brook University and SUNY-Westbury.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on the federal government to step in and set up four temporary U.S. Army Corps hospitals—two of them at university residence halls—to deal with an expected overflow of patients with coronavirus.

The Long Island Herald reports that temporary hospitals would be set up on the campuses of SUNY Old Westbury and Stony Brook University.

Students at Stony Brook have vacated residence halls and campus apartments as the school prepared for the possibility that its facilities would be used to treat an overflow of patients with coronavirus or to house hospital workers.

Newsday reports that up to 450 beds can be added by re-purposing large areas within Stony Brook University, says Dean Tufts, vice president of facilities and services at the university.

“To the extent our medical facilities get outstripped in terms of capacity, the campus is well-poised to provide space and opportunity for additional capacity whether it’s to treat patients or to house people, including staff who might need it,” says Michael Bernstein, Stony Brook University's interim president.

Stony Brook University Hospital has 624 beds, but hospital officials said the goal is to double its capacity.

Over the weekend, Cuomo announced that Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury are two of four sites selected by New York State for temporary field hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, reports.

As Stony Brook officials prepared facilities to make room for more patients, there was a growing need to decrease the number of students living on the campus.

The decision to close on-campus housing was made "in an effort to significantly reduce the population density on campus and ensure social distancing measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission," university officials said in a statement.

While residents were away for spring break, they were given short notice to return to campus to collect their belongings. Those who live abroad or who don’t have a home or safe place to return to were asked to fill out a form requesting to stay.

“We have a bit over 10,000 student residents. When we started spring break last weekend, we ended up with 6,000 who enjoy being on campus. Our goal is to try to get to about 2,000 or a few more than that because that's what we think we can manage,” Bernstein said.

The university, working with the state Office of General Services, National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers, could build a temporary hospital at its sports facilities, as well as the student activity center, Tufts said.

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