Colleges open campuses to hospitals amid COVID-19 pandemic

By: - March 25, 2020 4:40 pm

University of Michigan | Andrew Roth

Colleges and universities are offering spaces like arenas, dorms and parking lots to overloaded Michigan hospitals as more people continue to contract COVID-19, a disease caused by a new coronavirus. 

As previously reported by the Advance, there are now 2,295 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 people have died because of the disease. 

Oakland University said on-campus residence halls and apartments will be closed to all students except those who have approved waivers effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Those empty spaces, plus arenas and parking lots on campus, have been offered up to Beaumont Health and the Oakland County Emergency Management team to use for quarantine, testing or as a mobile hospital, according to Bridge.

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“We have been actively transferring COVID-19 patients within our system to other Beaumont hospitals, as appropriate, if one hospital has more capacity than another. However, across our system, we are facing limitations and nearing capacity with our staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and mechanical ventilators,” Beaumont Health Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson said.

Wilson added that the hospital is “taking steps to increase capacity, such as converting some of our operating rooms into intensive care units.”

Beaumont Health said it is currently caring for more than 440 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

Oakland University isn’t the only place offering up space for makeshift hospitals as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

Macomb Community College also is offering up its sports and expo center, Grand Valley State University is making space inside its Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences available as needed. Spectrum Health said the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science can accommodate up to 250 hospital beds.

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“We remain committed to adapting, preparing and finding new solutions to ensure the health, safety and appropriate care for our community in the midst of this critical and rapidly evolving health crisis,” said Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker. “This arrangement provides contingency medical space, should we need it. We are grateful for our community partners like GVSU who are coming together in remarkable ways to support our teams and our patients.”

Spectrum Health is currently caring for three patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, per WOOD-TV

University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the Ann Arbor campus has encouraged students living in residence halls to leave campus. As of Wednesday, the school anticipates less than 10% percent of students will remain living on campus beyond then.

Fitzgerald said the university also is starting to consolidate the remaining students in order to deliver services to them more effectively and free up some residence halls for other purposes, possibly in support of colleagues at University of Michigan Hospital.

“We are committed to freeing up residence hall space and getting those rooms cleaned so if they are ready to be used, whatever the purpose may be,” said Fitzgerald.

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The hospital is currently caring for 41 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

Michigan State University spokesperson Emily Guerrant said the school hasn’t received an official request to take on any patients yet, but MSU is evaluating how to best accommodate hospitals.

“For now, we are evaluating how and if we could accommodate that request and still meet the necessary health care requirements surrounding patient care,” said Guerrant.

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Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak

Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.