Santa Clara Convention Center transitioning into temporary federal hospital
Officials from the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, Santa Clara County Fire Department and the Army Corp of Engineers toured the Santa Clara Convention Center Monday ahead of its transition into a federal hospital for coronavirus relief. Photo by Katie Lauer.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County continues to rise – up to 302 as of Sunday, with 10 deaths – so does the strain on area hospital staff and resources.

In an effort to ease that demand, the Santa Clara Convention Center started the process of transitioning its facilities Monday morning into one of eight temporary federal hospitals in the state.

County spokesperson Roger Ross said the complex, located at 5001 Great America Parkway on the north side of the city, has capacity for up to 250 beds, with supplies and medicine for patients who have not tested positive for coronavirus but have less intensive conditions, such as recovering from surgery.

While details are still scarce on the timeline of when the center will go online and what the inside of the facility might look like, Michael Clark, the county’s EMS coordinator who also leads the county’s Emergency Operations Center, said those conversations started Monday.

“Today we’re doing a walkthrough to determine how we would install that site,” Clark said. “Once this is operational, it will allow us to care for sub-acute patients, which will then allow the hospitals in the area to care for the higher acuity patients.”

Michael Clark, EMS Coordinator at the County of Santa Clara and acting Operation Section Chief for the county’s Emergency Operations Center said conversations started Monday about how to transition the Convention Center into a temporary federal hospital. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Around two dozen individuals, including officials from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Santa Clara County Fire Department, were seen onsite, but the center’s exhibit halls appeared to be empty from views outside of the building. Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana said members of the Army Corps of Engineers were also part of that building tour.

“The city is a willing partner in the regional emergency response efforts to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Santana said in a statement.

The convention center features 262,000 square feet of meeting space. Last week, its kitchen facilities were being used to supplement the city’s senior nutrition program, which delivered meals to vulnerable adults.

This federal emergency aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts came after President Donald Trump approved a “Major Disaster Declaration” for the state Sunday. Federal agencies will cover 75 percent of the costs shared across local and state agencies, according to a statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked Trump for that action in an address Sunday evening, saying that these hospital units from the Strategic National Stockpile are a necessary part of the state’s medical response.

“They’re finally being delivered, they’re on the way,” Newsom said. “We are quite literally opening up those boxes as we speak, and we’re starting to distribute those assets all throughout the state of California in real time – that’s gowns, that’s gloves, that’s masks.”

The news also comes after local leaders launched a fund to raise money for Santa Clara County nurses who are pleading with the public for donations, supplies and protective gear. That fund raised nearly $600,000 in a day.

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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