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Valley Hospitals Secure Housing To Help Employees Social Distance From Their Families

Community Regional Medical Center
UCSF Fresno administrators say they're making plans to help residents maintain physical distance from their families if they're treating COVID-19 patients.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a program today to provide health care workers with low-cost hotel rooms. But ahead of the announcement, some valley hospitals were already working to provide employee housing. 

Dr. Lori Weichenthal, the assistant dean of graduate medical education at UCSF Fresno, said the school put out a survey to find out who might need housing as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“Anybody who’s been working with a potential COVID, or known COVID patient would have the  opportunity to say ‘Hey, you know, I just really don’t feel safe going home, I’m afraid of exposing my child with X or my grandma with Y,’” said Weichenthal.

Nearly a hundred people said they would take advantage of such a program. So far, the school has reserved a block of 20 hotel rooms and may reserve more. Other hospitals are also trying to give their employees options: both Kaiser Permanente and Tulare County’s Kaweah Delta Medical Center said they’re establishing discount hotel room rates for employees.

Kaweah Delta has said it also has the capacity to house seven employees for free at its rehabilitation campus, and a handful of community members have offered to lend trailers and RVs to employees as well.

As of Thursday, nearly 10 percent of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state are among health workers. Though not every case was acquired on the job, medical professionals are regularly in contact with the disease, which is stressful, Weichenthal said: “The fear of spreading it to your loved ones creates a lot of anxiety.”

She’s felt that stress too as she cares for her elderly mom. She added, even though physicians deal with death and illness regularly, this pandemic has been hitting the community a lot harder because it’s so infectious. And that makes the option to self-isolate all the more welcome. 

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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