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July 2, 2020
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City of RP Updates

Don Schwartz
New neighbors at Sonoma State University
May 8, 2020

The County Health Officer’s recent partial opening of parks and relaxation of requirements on construction and some other businesses is welcome. These changes are possible only because most of us have been staying at home unless performing essential errands like buying groceries or exercising. I know this is difficult, but modeling data shows that sheltering in place, social and physical distancing and other measures are flattening the curve in Sonoma County. 

As we are into our second month of staying at home, we ask that you don’t let up yet. Continue to stay home, practice physical distancing and wear a face covering when you leave your house to run essential errands and wash your hands frequently. Stay home, slow the spread and continue to save lives.

Here in Rohnert Park we have some new neighbors. Sonoma State University agreed to use parts of the University’s campus to support public health and reduce the spread during the COVID-19 emergency. This will provide a secure facility for people who are COVID positive, awaiting COVID test results, and a place for highly vulnerable individuals, primarily those experiencing homelessness, that are unable to shelter in place. This includes the following three components:

Use of SSU’s student center and recreational facilities for COVID-19 positive patients should hospitals need additional capacity. These patients will have lower levels of need than those at the hospitals. They will be restricted to the designated area on campus, which will be fenced off with security on site to ensure patients do not leave. We are unclear on the total capacity for this population and understand the site has the potential to expand if needed. As of this writing this particular part of the operation has not opened. 

Individuals tested and awaiting results for COVID-19 will be housed at the Sauvignon dormitory at SSU. This part of campus might also house COVID-19 patients with lower levels of need. The capacity for this population is unclear; our best understanding is that it could hold approximately 200 people. They will be restricted to the designated area on campus, which will be fenced off with security on site to ensure patients do not leave. Petaluma Health Center staff will be on site 24/7 once this component opens.

Use of SSU’s Verdot Village dormitory for those at higher risk of hospitalization if they became infected. The units are primarily for individuals experiencing homelessness who are 65 or older and/or with underlying health conditions. Housing these individuals at Sonoma State reduces their risk of infection, as well as the risk of spreading the virus more broadly. 

The capacity for this site is approximately 150. Residents will be screened by health professionals prior to selection for this site, and upon arrival. They may be from any location in the county. They will be required to sign an agreement acknowledging that this housing arrangement is temporary. Security guards will be onsite. Services will be provided to assist those who are homeless obtain housing. 

The University Police Department has primary law enforcement responsibility on campus and is aware of the plans for security. Rohnert Park Police are also aware of the plans for this site. We are working closely with the University and Cotati Police Departments. 

At the end of this event, the county intends to arrange for housing those at Verdot Village in shelters or other locations in the homeless system of care. The county has promised that those from other parts of the county will not be left on the streets of the university or Rohnert Park. 

For additional details about the SSU campus placement visit www.rpcity.org/SSUplacement.