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August 6, 2020
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Alternative care site at SSU dismantled

  • Kenwood Fence Company workers removing protective barriers and fencing at ACS site located on the SSU Campus. Photo by Tracy Si

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
July 17, 2020

By July 15 the individuals housed at the alternate care site (ACS) on the Sonoma State University campus will be moved out, ending the contract that the university had with the County of Sonoma to house people who are COVID-19 positive but do not need hospitalization, those who have tests pending, as well as people who are experiencing homelessness and are unable to shelter in place. Originally the contract was slated to expire on June 7, but an extension was mutually agreed upon. 

“There weren’t any real concerns from the university’s standpoint about how the county ran the facility,” says Rob Eyler, Interim AVP of Strategic Communications. “It went as expected in terms of the movement of people, the nature of the borderlines and the nature of the disease.”

However, the university now needs the housing back for students returning in August for the fall semester. While the school will largely resume virtual learning through the end of this year, some students will return to campus who need housing and sufficient technological support in order to optimize their learning. 

“The dorms need to be prepared for health and safety reasons, for students that are coming back to campus, living in the dorms and doing most of their classes virtually,” says Eyler. “There will be some lab classes that students may be taking, but they are very few and far between. The idea is that most of the students coming back to the dorms are ‘housing vulnerable’ in the sense that where they live now, they may be marginally homed. Also, the university’s wifi and internet resources are amazing, as compared to any household. The students coming to the dorms are going to have very consistent wifi for their virtual classes and they’ll have onsite healthcare. There will also be spaces if in fact, by a bad twist of luck, they become infected. There will be dorms held off to the side, empty, as temporary quarantine spaces.”

With each student having their own bathroom to ensure social distancing for their health and safety, the number of dorms the university can fill has been greatly reduced, to a maximum of 1,325. At the time of this writing the university does not yet know how many students will be needing space.

Fortunately, the area on campus set aside for overflow Covid-19 positive patients to bridge the gap between the 650 to 800 beds available in the existing hospital space in the county and the original 1,500 estimated, was not used at all during the time the ACS was in operation. The second section, used to temporarily house individuals who were awaiting testing and who could not self-isolate or were protecting loved ones at home, was used consistently with anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen people staying there for short periods of time. 

The third section was comprised of individuals experiencing homelessness who are at higher risk of hospitalization if infected, including those 65 or older or with underlying health conditions. This section was consistently used, and by housing these individuals, both their risk of infection was reduced, as well as the risk of spreading the virus. The section had a capacity of approximately 150 and at its highest usage had over a hundred people housed there. At last count the number of people in this group numbered in the high 90s. 

Per the university’s contract with the county, all residents residing at the ACS at the time of dismantling the site are to be relocated to other areas and all parts of the ACS will be cleaned and sanitized to restore the campus to its original condition. 

“All those residents are being relocated,” says Paul Gullixson, Communications Chief for the County of Sonoma. “The county is looking for new places for them to move to. The plan is to relocate some to the facility on Highway 12, Los Guilicos, on the east side of Santa Rosa. The others are potentially going to be relocated to other facilities. They’ve set aside some housing units at the fairgrounds so they’re looking at those as options. They’re doing their best to try to get these residents relocated. The county has a need to house their most vulnerable residents, particularly during this time of Covid-19. We all need to work together to find places for them to go because it’s in all our best interests to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to take care of our most vulnerable residents.”