Fairview Developmental Center welcomes first recovering COVID-19 patients

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An ambulance pulled into the Fairview Developmental Center — past freshly trimmed lawns, cordoned-off neighborhood streets and rows of empty buildings — bringing the first recovering COVID-19 patient earlier this week.

After nearly two months of back-and-forth about the fate of the 114-acre campus, Fairview is now a regional “Alternate Care Site,” home to five people from Los Angeles and Orange Counties recovering from the coronavirus disease. It is unclear how long the patients will stay, but they are deemed “low acuity” patients, who are more stable and don’t require as much intensity or frequency of care.

To get patients to Fairview, a hospital from around the region — which stretches as far north as the bottom of San Luis Obispo to San Diego, and inland to Riverside — must have treated them and then requested a transfer to Fairview.


About 70 employees of the state — including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, personal care attendants, respiratory therapists, behavioral health workers, pharmacists, supportive medical care providers and social workers — are staffing Fairview, which is currently prepared to accommodate 150 patients, and could be readied to handle more.

Six buildings, able to house 25 patients each, are fully equipped and ready for patients, Costa Mesa Fire Chief Dan Stefano said. But over the last few weeks, the state sent myriad contractors to the site to ready the entire property, sending in truck after truck to overhaul the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at almost every building, he said.

A massive readying operation, which included several walkthroughs of the property, cleaning and sanitation of the buildings, mowing the overgrown lawns and even fresh potted plants, concluded with official opening day Monday, Stefano said.

“The intent was to build out the entire property,” Stefano said, adding that the state’s initial goal was to prepare 1,000 beds. “They did a top-notch job of getting these facilities up and running.”

Each road branching from Harbor Village Apartments, a neighborhood that includes several group homes for elderly or disabled people, to the Fairview campus is cordoned off with security fencing, orange cones and, in some cases, a private security guard stationed in a car.

On Thursday, as golfers putted just over the fence at the newly opened Costa Mesa Golf Course, a small group of workers put together room dividers in the parking lot.

The state selected Fairview a month ago as a site with as many as 900 beds to house overflow hospital patients, in the case of an expected surge in coronavirus patients statewide. A month later, the surge has not materialized as experts first projected — countywide, hospitals clocked in at 58% capacity, according to a report Friday from the county’s medical health operational area coordination.

With its freshly prepped buildings, plenty of staffing and equipment, Fairview stands ready to serve should coronavirus cases sharply uptick. Past that, the future of the site remains unclear.

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