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An exterior view of California State University San Marcos. CSUSM is one of several public universities in the state that may open its campus housing facilities to house coronavirus patients. Photo courtesy of California State University
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CSUSM, other state universities offer beds to hospital patients

SAN MARCOS – California State University-San Marcos is one of several public universities across the state that could soon be opening its on-campus housing facilities to temporarily hold hospital patients.

In a recent press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated that he would be preparing the California State University and the University of California campuses to be supportive of regional needs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our campus could be a place for housing patients, whether they are ones that have COVID-19 or just other patients that need the facilities,” said Margaret Chantung, CSUSM associate vice president for communications.

After suspending in-person learning and sending home students who lived on campus last month, CSUSM now has approximately 1,100 beds available between its two housing facilities.

“They could be used as testing locations, they could be used to house medical personnel,” Chantung said. “There’s a variety of things that the campus could be used for, and at this point, we have let the state know what our resources are.”

Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesperson for the CSU Office of the Chancellor, told The Coast News that some local agencies have executed memorandums of understanding (MOU) with some state schools. These agreements are in place so that if the need does arise, the state can move swiftly in utilizing its facilities to house patients.

“Those campuses are Cal State Fresno and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,” Uhlenkamp said. “We have had inquiries from about half a dozen local agencies, whether that be the City of Long Beach or even San Diego County, but Fresno and SLO are a little bit further along and are potentially ready should they be called upon.”

San Diego County has approximately 7,000 to 8,000 hospital beds, and some hospitals are already reaching their capacity.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher spoke about a potential agreement with UC San Diego to house patients in a recent news conference, explaining that something like this could bring much-needed relief to local hospitals.

“This would be for individuals presently in the hospital who are too sick to go home but don’t need to stay in the hospital,” Fletcher said. “If we can create new rooms, we can transfer those folks there, which is freeing up an existing room.”

CSUSM officials said they have made the capabilities of their facilities known at the request of both the county and state.

And now, they wait.

“We have reported how many beds we have available and what sort of security and campus resources we have,” Chantung said. “We are just waiting to be called upon, and when we get that call, we will be ready and willing to support whatever that effort looks like.”


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