SAN MATEO (CBS SF) – In a cavernous room at the San Mateo County Event Center, 250 hospital beds lie waiting for an emergency that county officials hope will never come.

County officials showed off the new treatment center planned to reporters on Wednesday. The medical station at the San Mateo County Event Center will not house patients who are positive with coronavirus, but would be used to take on overflow from surrounding hospitals. The county has set up RVs and hotel rooms for patients who are positive with COVID-19.

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“We hope that we never need this facility, but we want to be absolutely prepared,” said San Mateo County Manager Michael Callagy. “Because when that time comes, and you need space, you want to have it.”

Incoming patients will be assessed in this makeshift triage room. If arriving patients are not that sick and don’t need intensive care, they will be assigned a bed.

They are not the most luxurious accommodations.

The beds are narrow, spaced six feet apart, with a pillow, extra linens, a blanket, emergency blanket, a metal folding chair, bag of toiletries and power to charge devices.

Coronavirus triage center at the San Mateo County Event Center. (Bay City News Service)

Coronavirus triage center at the San Mateo County Event Center. (Bay City News Service)

Volunteers with the time and skills to help support the medical station are encouraged to apply.

“Each generation has its challenge. For our forefathers, it was war. This is a different type of war for us and this is our generation’s challenge,” said Callagy.

The triage center was constructed with the assistance of the California Air National Guard. It is the fourth site statewide where they’ve established such a treatment center after setting them up in Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, and Coachella.

The next will be in Contra Costa County, where the National Guard was doing a site survey on Wednesday. The National Guard has also been deployed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to assist in food banks and other medical capacity, according to Lt. Col. Shane Patty.

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“We are 100 percent committed to supporting the citizens of California,” Patty said.

The big challenge in getting the site up and running, if necessary, will be finding staff, said Travis Kusman, San Mateo County director of emergency medical services.

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He said that how many staff might be necessary depends on need and the condition of the patients that are taken in there. No one accepted at the site will require a ventilator since it is not equipped for intensive care patients, so they would stay at hospitals while patients who are less sick would be housed at the event center.

Still, because it would need around-the-clock staffing, the facility would need substantial staff and volunteers to operate effectively.

But if residents of the county and region continue to follow social distancing guidelines, Kusman said the facility may never need to open.

“We’re hopeful this facility will never have to be used,” Kusman said.

The county is building a roster of volunteers and raising money for its response. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can do so at smcgov.org.

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