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Health Officials, Universities Consider Using Empty Dorms To Help Coronavirus Crisis

MEDFORD (CBS) -- Tufts University President Anthony Monaco is preparing his campus for a crisis. Health officials have predicted coronavirus cases could spike and overwhelm local hospitals, so Monaco is offering something Tufts has plenty of right now: space.

"The overrun of the hospitals, if it occurs, is a local challenge," he said. "The major concern now is how our hospitals are going to be able to cope."

Monaco said Tufts is prepared to provide dorms to medical workers who don't want to risk spreading the virus to loved ones. It's something state health officials have been looking into as well.

"Obviously the empty dorms have created an opportunity, not just for healthcare workers, but for other essential staff, as well as potential overflow space if we need it," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

As far as housing patients on campus, Tufts is considering allowing those with mild symptoms to stay in an isolated dorm building. Monaco said that would require more planning.

Another use for empty campuses, Monaco said, is a test collection site. "They're used to having all kinds of traffic flows on campus. They know how to manage big events."

Monaco said the university could be open to house healthcare workers as early as next week.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is calling on more colleges, and even hotels, to offer rooms to medical workers.

"This is the time to have everything at the ready so that we can face this crisis," said MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams.

The MNA is also urging officials to make available all medical facilities, even if they have closed.

"We have a number of hospitals that have shuddered their doors that could be reopened again," Kelly-Williams said. "We have Quincy Medical Center. We have Somerville Hospital. This is not the time to be closing."

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