Yale Health staff are preparing the Lanman Center in Payne Whitney Gymnasium as a temporary medical facility to house patients who cannot be treated at Yale Health Center.
The Lanman Center, which hosted basketball and volleyball games before campus was shut down, has not yet been used, but with limited in-patient care, Yale Health may require additional space to house members of the Yale community who have contracted the coronavirus. Pictures of the center, depicting rows upon rows of hospital beds, have been circulating on social media. In an interview with Yale News, director of Yale Health Dr. Paul Genecin said the temporary facility would serve as an overflow space for patients.
“We hope we never have to use it. But it could support those who are unable to care for themselves at home, yet are not sick enough for hospital admission,” Genecin said to Yale News.
University spokesperson Karen Peart said that the beds are intended for members of the Yale community, including all faculty, staff and students, and currently reserved “for COVID-19 patients only.” According to Peart, the Lanman Center, if activated, will house only “very low acuity” patients who are stable but need to remain isolated from high-risk family members. The facility will provide general care to these patients by monitoring their vitals and supplying food and hydration while they recover. Peart emphasized that sick and healthy patients would be housed separately, with patients who are severely ill remaining at Yale New Haven Hospital.
On Saturday, Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis posted a photo of the Lanman Center set up with hospital beds. In his tweet, he compared the makeshift ward in the Payne Whitney gym to a similar setup in an Iowa State University gym during the 1918 flu, with the two photos posted side by side. The tweet quickly went viral, accruing 18,200 likes and over 9,300 retweets.
Howard Forman, director of the Health Care management program at the Yale School of Public Health, responded to the photo in a string of tweets, clarifying that the facility was “NOT an inpatient hospital ward.”
“This is a staging/urgent care, fully-staffed center for SUBACUTE care,” Forman tweeted. “There are MANY patients coming to our attention, who can not go home to immunocompromised or elderly individuals, while they are either #Covid19 positive or pending a result. They can be housed here, more safely. There are STILL many students living on and off campus who do not have someone to look after them if they get sick. This offers a safety net for them as well.”
A number of colleges are clearing and preparing campus facilities to provide housing for coronavirus patients. New York University and Tufts University have emptied dorms to make them available as makeshift medical centers. Tufts has also offered to provide housing to medical workers who could act as carriers and infect family members.
In a notice to undergraduates, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun informed some of the first years on Sunday that the University would be packing up their suites on Old Campus to make room for graduate and professional students. Yale needs to house those unable to return home and provide more space for students to practice social distancing, Chun said
In the United States, the number of coronavirus cases is rising daily, and hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of sick patients. Although current projections are still unclear, government officials are certain the spread has yet to peak. By providing additional beds and space to house patients, the Lanman Center can help handle patient overflow and ease the burden on nearby hospitals and clinics, freeing up hospital beds for sicker patients.
“I am really impressed with our leadership in finding the best and safest way to combat COVID-19,” wrote Director of Athletics Vicky Chun in an email to the News. “Turning Lanman Center into a field hospital is one of many great actions by Yale.”
According to Peart, Yale Health does not intend to prepare any other Yale facilities to take patients at this time.
Yale New Haven Hospital has 1,541 beds.
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Rehan Melwani contributed reporting.