Old Sears building in Santa Barbara could be turned into alternate care site

Sears Santa Barbara.PNG
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 00:17:50-04

Santa Barbara County is prepared in case the number of COVID-19 patients puts hospitals over capacity.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a lease for an alternate care site at the vacant Sears building on State Street in Santa Barbara.

"This is an insurance policy to protect us in the future if the need arises," said Gregg Hart, District 2 Supervisor.

The lease is six months but it could be extended up to 18.

"Our initial proposal is to make it accessible to 250 patients," Hart explained.

It'll cost around $40,000 a month if all 72,000 square feet is used.

"It's designed to be scalable to the need that we potentially would have in the future," Hart said. "We want to be prepared."

Cottage Hospital is now scaling back on elective surgeries by 50% for more bed capacity.

If needed, the alternate care site at Cal Poly is another option for Northern Santa Barbara County patients.

San Luis Obispo County set up more than 100 beds at it's ACS back in April. It's currently in standby status with zero patients admitted so far.

San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton announced on Wednesday that the counties had signed a mutual aid agreement.

"(The agreement) reserves 50 of those 164 beds for Santa Barbara County residents," Horton said. "Those 50 beds were included in our modeling and will not take away any capacity from San Luis Obispo County residents."

To date, SLO County has spent $2.2 million on the facility.

Santa Barbara County would be asked to bring additional staffing to Cal Poly with the patients that would require care.

Both areas, however, are hopeful these facilities will not be activated.

The Santa Barbara facility will be paid for by federal funding that's earmarked for COVID-19 response.

Deep cleaning, electrical, and heating and ventilation upgrades would be needed at the Sears building. The upgrades would cost more than $1 million and will only be done if the facility is needed.