University and college residences part of COVID-19 plan in Kingston

KFL&A Public Health says it is working on plans to house COVID-19 patients — and perhaps hospital staff dealing with those patients — in residences at Kingston’s post-secondary institutions if the need arises.

“We’re preparing for the worst, but we’re hoping, absolutely, for the best and that we can suppress this infection in our community from rising,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer for KFL&A Public Health, discussing plans to possibly use college and university residences in the COVID-19 response.

Moore says he toured St. Lawrence College dorms with the college president Glenn Vollebregt on Thursday.

“I have to really thank both Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College for being open to using their residences,” Moore said.

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“We are working through in what indication we would house people at either Queen’s or St. Lawrence College, but we went through. We think the rooms are appropriate.”

One option public health is looking into is allowing hospital staff to stay at the residences while they’re treating patients infected with the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“They could house just staff who want to isolate themselves from their family, who are going to be working with COVID-19 patients who don’t want to bring it home to their families.”

Moore said the residences could also be open to healthier COVID-19 patients that need care but who are ambulatory and able to be treated in a less controlled environment, rather than in hospital.

“Patients who can be discharged safely that need an extra little bit of help before they get to their homes and/or for those that have COVID-19 but are ambulatory that don’t need acute care or critical care resources but need housing because they can’t go back,” Moore said.

Moore says he’s also had discussions with Canadian Forces Base Kingston commander Col. Kirk Gallinger about supporting community response by using the base’s space if required.

Nevertheless, Moore said talks with the post-secondary institutions are really only contingency plans in case the virus really takes off in the community. It’s public health officials’ main goal to stop the spread locally before the need for alternate residences arises, Moore said.

“These discussions with St. Lawrence and Queen’s are at the very early stages to enhance capacity, if and when required. So we’re looking at this as a phased approach, as the number of people potentially admitted to hospital increases. And … if we need more demand, we are making the plans in place.”

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