Smith-Steeb Hall. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

Residence halls could eventually be used as hospital beds as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses — but it’s not likely yet at Ohio State. 

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, announced at a Tuesday press conference that college residence halls may be transformed into hospital rooms to help with an influx of patients due to the outbreak.  

“Everyone should understand and not be surprised that this is the trend,” Acton said. “We will need to build extra capacity; our hospitals have been collaborating to work on that alongside the governor’s team.”

Acton said that hospital intensive care unit bed capacity is at 60 percent after stopping elective surgeries and that ICU capacity needs to be expanded 50 percent, most likely by moving routine care patients to “lesser care settings.”

University spokesperson Dave Isaacs said in an email that there are no plans in place to turn dorms into hospital rooms at this time. 

“However, we are working closely with our partners at the Wexner Medical Center and the Ohio Department of Health in all matters related to COVID-19, and will continue to collaborate with them as the situation dictates,” he said.

A work group at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State has been examining alternative sites to house and care for patients during the outbreak. The sites include the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute, but not necessarily residence halls, Marti Leitch, medical center spokesperson, said.

At the time of publication, there are 564 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 145 hospitalizations and eight deaths across 49 counties in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website.

University President Michael V. Drake announced March 12 in a universitywide email that all students were to move out of on-campus residence halls between March 14 and 22 unless granted an exemption through a request form. About 14,000 students lived in the residence halls prior to move-outs, Dave Isaacs, university spokesperson, said in an email.

Acton said 65 of the hospitalized patients — 25 of whom are from long-term facilities — are in ICUsintensive care units. The age range of COVID-19 cases in Ohio is less than 1 year old to 95 years old.

Acton and Gov. Mike DeWine said that using existing structures such as residence halls is preferable to building tent hospitals, such as those in New York. 

“They didn’t have as much time to maybe use other structures,” Acton said. “I’m very interested in using existing structures that we have.”

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