SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — With help from the National Guard Reserves, the Santa Clara Convention Center is being transformed into a make-shift hospital for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients.

250 hospital cots were set up inside the convention center’s main hall as part of Santa Clara County’s emergency plan to handle the crisis.

Santa Clara County’s health department on Friday announced 32 additional novel coronavirus cases, along with one new COVID-19 related death, bringing the number of deaths in the county to 20.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“We’ll be separating males and females, adults only,” said Jennifer Tong, Santa Clara County’s Hospital Surge Planner who is working with the Office of Emergency Services and the California Air National Guard’s 146th Air Lift Wing out of the Channel Islands.

They’re setting up what is basically a MASH-type unit for less severe and recovering coronavirus patients who may be homeless or don’t have a safe place to stay until they get better.

“The mission of this medical station is to help ensure that our hospitals have the capacity to take care of the sickest patients,” Tong said.

Major medical centers have been gearing up for weeks to handle their own expected surge of the most critical cases with specialized equipment like ventilators.

This unit won’t have that level of acute care.

“Patients who are well enough to leave the hospital but don’t have a safe place to go can come
here for ongoing care,” Tong said.

The unit will be staffed with a volunteer corps of doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as mental health and social workers.

The patients who come will likely settle in for a lengthy stay.

“Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 have to be isolated, so we expect that patients will
be here for two or sometimes three weeks,” Tong said.

The hospital was set up in about 12 hours and will be one of eight such sites organized throughout California.

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