Santa Clara Convention Center opens for COVID-19 patients

Two weeks after local leaders announced plans to transform Santa Clara’s Convention Center into a field hospital, the facility accepted its first COVID-19 patients.

The ‘field respite center’ is the first one fully active in California. Other cities are in the process of setting them up in coordination with federal officials.

Santa Clara’s center will serve those infected with novel coronavirus who do not need intensive or acute care.

“Today’s patients will have the ability to recuperate in a safe setting while still sheltering in place – keeping all of our residents and essential workers protected,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said in a statement.

The field respite center has cots, supplies, and medical stock delivered by the National Guard. The State of California is the lead agency in charge of the site. Admissions are by medical referral only. Walk-up services are prohibited at this time.

Preparing capacity for the expected surge

The 250-bed center is critical to the County’s ability to handle an expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Utilizing the Convention Center as a Field Respite Center backstops hospitals and other care providers preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, head of the County’s Health Care Surge team.

Last week, County officials noted that expanding capacity is key to limiting the death toll in the region. They are pursuing that through this center and increased use of homeless shelters and leased motel rooms.

“The capacity of our health care system to respond to large events is expandable and elastic,” said Dr. Tong said on April 2.

Despite these upgrades, the plea from County health officials to West Valley residents remains the same: stay home.

“We need everyone to follow the stay-at-home order if we are going to flatten the curve and keep our community safe,” said County Executive Dr. Jeffrey Smith.