Empty residence halls could become hospital overflow rooms

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- There are a little more than 600 students that were approved by UW Madison to stay in one of four residence halls during the Safer at Home order put in place until April 24. The other residence halls are vacant leaving almost 5,000 rooms unused.

UW Health is considering using the vacant rooms as potential hospital overflow rooms. Brendon Dybdahl, the marketing and communications director of UW Housing, said the residence halls are being considered because of the variety of rooms, the number and the location downtown.

"The location, especially some of our lakeshore halls are very close to UW Health and the hospital there so that makes it an easy place and logical place for them to use for some of those purposes and transport people back and forth if needed," Dybdahl said.

The rooms could be used to house multiple COVID-19 patients in one room or as isolation rooms. "If we got into a scenario like that we could potentially have people you know with confirmed cases in a similar space or nearby each other. If it's more isolation and that kind of a thing we would definitely have them more spaced out so they're not sharing spaces," Dybdahl said.

No decision has officially been made if UW Health will utilize the vacant rooms, but Dybdahl says UW Madison is ready to help in any way they can.

"If there is some way that we can use that existing space that we have to make things easier for the health care system and handle a surge of cases if that is what happens you know we're happy to do that. I think that's the type of work that we want to do and provide for our community," Dybdahl said.

Until then, UW Housing is working to pack up items left in rooms by students and working to pick out a date for them to come pick those up. UW Madison also released a statement saying students would get a refund of their room and board costs for the rest of the semester.