University of New Haven opens its doors to first responders Tuesday

Coronavirus

WEST HAVEN, Conn, (WTNH) — Those on the front lines are working tirelessly dealing with COVID-19 patients and then go home to their families, putting their loved ones at risk of getting coronavirus. Now, the state is turning to universities for some help.

RELATED: Local hospitals, health organizations prep for surge in coronavirus patients with more screenings, field hospitals

“They’re putting in long long hours. They’re putting their lives on the line. Every day, for all of us,” said Doug Whiting with the University of New Haven.

UNH has been one of the first to step up. Their doors are open starting Tuesday for New Haven and West Haven police officers and firefighters. The university is heeding the call for help from the cavalry itself—200 beds for front line workers. Doctors, nurses, police and fire will be able to stay, sleep, and even recover. UNH says each person will be given their own space.

“The beds are ready, the dorms are ready, each individual will have a private suite so they won’t have to share space. Private baths, kitchen facilities, they’ve all been cleaned and disinfected,” said Whiting.

Sacred Heart University, too, is offering a safe space for doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters from Bridgeport and Fairfield to stay, sleep, and even recover if they do test positive. 

The University says it’s expecting staff from Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s hospitals.

“We’re also working on areas we can quarantine them and isolate them,” said Sacred Heart University’s Gary MacNamara.

SHU will be available for first-responders at the end of the week.

On Monday, Webster Bank Arena planned on being included as a facility to house overflow patients. As of Tuesday morning, that plan looks to be on hold due to hospitals in Bridgeport being “in better situations than others in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis,” according to an official.

Across Connecticut, state and local officials have issued calls for action.

Officials are now looking to open Alternative Care Sites in Stamford (UCONN), Danbury (Western CT State University) and New Haven (Southern CT State University).

Friday, an outraged New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker publicly stated that Yale University has not acted fast enough to help house the city’s police officers and firefighters, whose ranks have already endured positive COVID-19 cases.

A day later, Yale announced they’ll have 300 beds open by the end of the week, has already planned on investing $5 million dollars to help the city fight the pandemic, and will conduct expedited testing for first responders. 

RELATED: Yale agrees to provide dorms for first-responders amid coronavirus outbreak

“Nobody wants to bring this infection home to their families. But yet they’re put on that frontline to deal with that. So where are they going to go? Well hopefully some of them know they have a home at Sacred Heart for as long as they need it,” said Sacred Heart’s MacNamara.

Mohegan Sun, the Connecticut Convention Center, and the University of Hartford are all under consideration for use as first-responder housing and hospital overflow sites.

Quinnipiac University has announced it will be offering 50 university-owned apartments to first-responders who need to self-isolate. It is also donating supplies to healthcare workers and food to food banks.

RELATED: Quinnipiac University donates medical supplies, food to combat coronavirus

WEB EXTRA: Hartford University and Quinnipiac University will also be offering housing to first-responders

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities will also be used to house emergency medical personnel and COVID-19 patients. The Fieldhouses at Southern and Western will be staged this week for potential hospital overflow. It’s all hands on deck as as Connecticut braces for the worst of the surge.

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