NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - State officials said that when the expected surge of COVID-19 cases hits and hospital beds fill up quickly, some patients could be treated in dorm rooms.

It’s been a topic that Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his cabinet have touched upon during their daily press conferences over the past few weeks.

Murphy is on record as saying that “everything is on the table” – including the possibility of transforming dorm rooms in hospital beds.

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While neither he nor his cabinet members have spoken directly about the possibility of Rutgers being a host for those patients, some of the thousands of dorm rooms and apartments at the state university are just blocks away from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Saint Peter’s University Hospital.

“The Governor’s comments reflect the outreach that we have received from several state agencies as they sketch out their contingency plans to address the need for apartments or other housing units,” according to a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick by a Rutgers spokesperson.

“We will do everything that we can to help the Governor and his administration meet the challenges posed by COVID-19, but no specific request is pending.”

Rutgers is home to about 70,000 students between its New Brunswick (50,000), Newark (14,000) and Camden (7,000) campuses.

More than 16,000 students live on the four campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway.

While the subject of dorms turning into hospital rooms has been mentioned briefly in past press conferences, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli today gave a clearer understanding of how schools such as Rutgers could help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said in addition to dorms, hotel rooms could also come online for hospital overflow.

“We do have them in reserve,” Persichilli said. “They would be symptomatic individuals who would have tested positive with moderate symptoms that are living in close quarters at home and should isolate but perhaps cannot because of the living situation. So, they would be housed in a hotel or a dormitory.

“It would also be for our vulnerable populations, those that are living in our shelters, primarily our homeless population that need also to isolate and does not have a residence to go to. Or it could be a patient that gets admitted to the hospital, and is under observation, tests positive and needs to isolate for a short period of time after their hospital stay and it would be deemed a safer environment not only for that individual but their family, their partners and loved ones.”

Rutgers President Robert Barchi has canceled in-class instruction and moved all learning online. Student have been sent home and events such as Rutgers Day and commencement ceremonies have been canceled.