Tufts to Make Residence Halls Available to Local Hospitals and Host Cities

Housing slated for medical personnel, police and firefighters, and patients, with campus segmented into separate zones for different types of populations
A brick and glass fronted building, one of the residence halls Tufts is offering to house medical personnel, first responders, and patients for local hospitals and host cities
“We have the ability to help with our space, facilities, infrastructure, and partnerships,” said Tufts President Anthony Monaco. One of the residence halls Tufts is offering to house medical personnel, first responders, and patients. Photo: Alonso Nichols
April 6, 2020

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In partnership with local health-care providers and its host communities, Tufts University today announced it will make its residence halls available to house medical personnel, police and firefighters, and patients, including those recovering from COVID-19, in an effort to help contain the spread of the virus as local hospitals prepare for a surge of cases that threatens to overwhelm their capacity.

The university has offered to house:

  • Cambridge Health Alliance patients, including COVID-19 positive patients who are no longer in need of critical care but who still need to isolate and whose transfer into Tufts residence halls can free up hospital beds for those who are seriously ill;
  • Medical personnel from Cambridge Health Alliance and Tufts Medical Center who cannot return home to potentially vulnerable family members in high-risk populations;
  • Police and firefighters from the cities of Somerville and Medford who cannot return home to potentially vulnerable family members because they are awaiting test results, have tested positive and need to isolate, and/or have vulnerable family members who belong to high-risk populations;
  • Tufts staff members whose presence is required on campus and who have either had an exposure to a COVID-19 positive person or who prefer to stay on campus so as to not risk infecting family members who have compromised immune systems or other risk factors.

The university is able to do this by segmenting its campus into separate zones for different types of populations, providing each with their needs while protecting everyone’s health.

In all of its plans and actions, it is being guided by the advice and direction of medical professionals and logistics experts whose expertise enables this multi-pronged approach while ensuring that members of the Tufts community who have been exposed to COVID-19 remain separated from those who have not.

The university and its local community and health-care partners are following all appropriate guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting these spaces to ensure the health and safety of its community members.

“As COVID-19 continues to have an impact globally and locally, it is clear that support and action are needed from all corners. Individuals, communities, and institutions can all play a part in mitigating the spread of this pandemic,” said Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco. “I feel strongly that Tufts and other universities, particularly research universities, have an abundance of resources to offer our community and health-care partners in their fight against this unprecedented and rapidly changing challenge. We have the ability to help with our space, facilities, infrastructure, and partnerships. We need to match our capacities to providers’ needs in order to help relieve the pressure on the healthcare system.”

“I am very grateful for this partnership with Tufts University and the cities of Somerville and Medford, which will help ensure the health-care system remains functional during this crisis,” said Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Assaad Sayah. “Tufts’ generous accommodations will both allow us to reserve our hospital beds for more seriously ill patients and reduce the strain on our employees who are working around the clock to care for our communities.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have an academic partner in Tufts University that has gone above and beyond to accommodate our needs and the needs of our frontline clinical staff during this public health crisis,” said Michael Apkon, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. “We know that some of our staff have concerns about going home to people that might have a higher risk if they were to become infected. By offering overnight dormitory accommodations at no charge, the university has helped provide our caregivers with a safe, convenient, comfortable sleeping option so they can continue to provide the very best care to our COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.”

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said that “one of the biggest challenges we’re trying to tackle at the moment is finding space for the coming patient surge and for housing front line health and emergency workers. We are incredibly fortunate to have a partner like Tufts to step up to help us tackle the enormity of this task,” he said. “We’re never going to know the exact number of lives this will save, but it’s a number we never want to know. Hopefully what Tufts is doing here becomes a model for college campuses across the state, region, and country.”

“We are extremely grateful to Tufts University for their generosity and their leadership in making spaces available not only to front line health workers combating COVID-19, but also to members of our communities who are, thankfully, recovering,” said Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn. “As health-care professionals and police and firefighters prepare for the potential surge in hospital admissions in the coming weeks, having a safe, clean, and stable place to rest without fear of spreading the disease to family members and the general community is essential, and we commend President Monaco and the entire Tufts University team for offering this service.”

To help other colleges and universities take similar steps to assist their local hospitals and communities, Tufts today announced it will share what it has learned while working with its community partners in a webinar being held in coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Education on Wednesday, April 8, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The webinar is open to colleges, universities, hospitals and government officials from across the country. To register, visit the following link: http://go.tufts.edu/covid19communitysupport.

Making its residence halls available to relieve strain on the health-care system is one of the many ways the university is stepping up to meet the threat of COVID-19. Already, the university has:

  • Donated to its local hospitals a supply of personal protective equipment and respirators that it has collected from research and teaching labs and its veterinary hospitals;
  • Offered its parking lots for alternative testing sites to help decrease demand on hospitals;
  • Shared its guidance and planning tools with other colleges and universities to encourage them to take similar steps to help their local healthcare systems and host communities.

All of these efforts are in response to President Monaco’s call for colleges and universities to help their local health-care systems and local communities as they work to cope with the unprecedented demands placed on them by the spread of COVID-19.

“I am grateful to the many people who are working tirelessly to enable Tufts to make this contribution to the health, safety, and wellness not just of the local community, but also of students, faculty, and staff,” said Monaco. “Every step we take to help the larger community helps the Tufts community. I also am grateful to Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Medford Mayor Lungo-Koehn, both of whom have been strong advocates for their communities and committed partners with Tufts as we confront this challenge together, as well as to Mayor Walsh for his leadership during this crisis.”

For more information on the housing program, please see the university’s COVID-19 frequently asked questions page on community partnerships: https://coronavirus.tufts.edu/community-partnerships/.

Members of the media who have questions, please contact Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, at patrick.collins@tufts.edu or 617-627-4173.