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News >  Spokane

Boise State opens dorms for health care workers who need to isolate in COVID-19 crisis

UPDATED: Fri., April 10, 2020

By Ximena Bustillo Idaho Statesman

Boise State University is working with the health systems that run Boise-area hospitals and the Boise Veterans Administration to provide temporary housing for health care workers who want to isolate to avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 to their families.

According to Idaho’s coronavirus website, the state has 143 health professionals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Many more have been working with patients who have tested positive, in an environment with great exposure.

“The university has made it a top priority to be as responsive to the community and the state as possible through all this, so we are exploring all ideas that come our way,” Greg Hahn, vice president of communications at Boise State, told the Idaho Statesman. “I believe this need is coming from the health care systems and their workers – hoping to do all they can to keep providing needed care but without putting their families in danger.”

Mark Snider, a spokesman for Saint Alphonsus, said the hospital system appreciates the community efforts taken by BSU President Marlene Tromp and the school.

“We have received similar offers from others in the community, and are evaluating which are appropriate for our providers and colleagues who are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19,” Snider said. “We value our relationship with BSU and thank them for this creative way to be of service.”

The university also reached out to St. Luke’s, according to the health care system’s public relations manager, Anita Kissee. Hospital leadership is working to assess the need and determine next steps, she said.

Hahn said some health care workers could move in as soon as this weekend.

“The systems are covering the costs,” Hahn said, so any health professionals staying there won’t have to pay. “But we are working to keep the costs as low as possible as a service to the community through this effort.”

Because the large majority of students have returned home for the duration of the spring semester – part of the effort to stop the virus’ spread – the university has a lot of capacity in its residential facilities. The health systems and BSU are working to ensure that facilities are cleaned and maintained with hygiene and safety in mind, which is necessary not only for the health professionals but also Boise State students, faculty and staff, according to a news release from the university.

Although the university does not know how many health care workers it might house, that figure is nowhere near the number of students who would live in the same residential spaces under normal circumstances, so it will be easy to guarantee social distancing, Hahn said.

The press release explained that each health care worker will be staying alone in a suite of rooms, so there will be no sharing of bathrooms or living spaces. They also will not come in contact with any of the rooms that still hold items students have been unable to collect. Any students on campus have been consolidated into apartment-style housing that won’t be used for the hospital workers.

Hahn said there is no timeline for how long workers will be housed, given the unknowns of the coronavirus crisis. Boise State has summer events still scheduled, and if health professionals are still using the facilities as those approach, he said that will be dealt with in time.

“We will be following public health expert advice and protocols on summer events – that guidance will be what drives those decisions,” Hahn said.

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