A temporary hospital in New Haven. Yale University photo
Yale University photo

Yale has repurposed a complex in its Payne-Whitney Gym into a subacute-care facility for university community members who have contracted covid-19 but don’t need to go to the hospital.

The beds are in place in the now-closed gym’s spacious Lanman Center, which in non-conavirus-shutdown days houses basketball, volleyball, and badminton competitions.

Yale spokesperson Karen Peart said the temporary beds are reserved for members of the Yale community, including all staff, students, and faculty. Staff at the Yale Health Center, a health maintenance organization that “provides healthcare for the majority of people who study and work at Yale University,” have been preparing the space.

“The Yale Health Center has a limited in-patient clinic that would not be able to accommodate members of the Yale community who might become severely ill with COVID-19. As a result, Yale Health staff are preparing space in the Lanman Center at Payne Whitney gymnasium,” Peart wrote in a statement emailed Sunday to the Independent.

“If necessary, it could be activated to handle patients from the Yale community who cannot be treated at the center. We hope we never have to use it. But it could support those who are unable to care for themselves at home, yet are not sick enough for hospital admission. While this space would not be meant to serve as ICU overflow from Yale New Haven Hospital, it would offer general care — monitoring of vital signs and provision of food and hydration, for instance. It also is likely to house some COVID-19 patients who are well enough to return home, but who should remain sequestered from elderly or immune-compromised relatives.

“The temporary facility would help prevent these members of the extended Yale community from needing to go to the hospital. Mitigating transmission of the disease within Yale will ease the strain on local hospitals and clinics, benefitting New Haven as a whole.”

Howard Forman, a Yale radiologist and public health professor, elaborated in a series of tweets. He noted the gym’s proximity to the Yale Health Plan and the subacute facility’s potential to stem the spread of covid-19 to non-infected people.

“There are MANY patients coming to our attention, who can not go home to immunocompromised or elderly individuals, while they are either #Covid19 positive or pending a result. They can be housed here, more safely,” Forman tweeted.

“There are STILL many students living on and off campus who do not have someone to look after them if they get sick. This offers a safety net for them as well This is a CRITICAL & PROACTIVE effort to relieve what we expect to be an enormous burden on our health system, caring for those who are acutely and SEVERELY ill at   @YNHH with #Covid19 . There is only so much capacity that can be “created” by cancelling elective surgeries, repurposing beds, adding staff, buying more ventilators, etc. Still need to think about all contours of pandemic.”

Forman reported that Yale is using hotel rooms to quarantine health care workers.

Yale has also opened a covid-19 sample collection site at the Prospect Sachem Garage for university employees and students. Like other sites in town (which can handle more people), this site requires people to have an appointment and a clinician’s order.

Haja Kamara, a master’s student at the Yale School of Public Health, said she thinks Yale should think hard about what the “Yale community” means. “I wonder how these resources could be more equitably divided among people,” she said.

In a pandemic, institutions like Yale can’t think about their “community” in the way they normally would, especially since Yale already has such a large reach throughout the city, she said.

“I think Yale should really think about who they’re trying to protect, and whether that is the best use of resources,” she said.

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