The Hill Regional Career High School gym is getting an overhaul.
“We told people that once we were out of there, we’d bring it back to a condition that was better than when we got here,” said Rick Fontana, director of emergency management for New Haven.
Since March, the gym has been an isolation shelter for those with COVID-19 who are homeless. A total of 15 people spent days and even weeks in the gym recovering. With numbers dropping and no patients in need of the shelter, the city closed it on May 28.
“The numbers were down, we were down to one individual, that individual tested negative,” said Dr. Mehul Dalal, New Haven's community services administrator. “It took a few days to find the right place for him to be placed, we didn’t want to send him out into the street.”
The city then began deep cleaning.
“We decontaminated areas, door handles, equipment that was in the facility,” said Fontana.
They used a machine called an AeroClave. It sends out a non-toxic, chlorine-based solution that kills the coronavirus on contact.
“As it’s settling, it doesn’t just go right to the ground,” said Robert Bonetti, adjunct professor for the New Haven Fire Academy. “If it’s passing an item or something – an object – it will adhere to it so it really will get in every nook and cranny.”
Bonetti is one of a few firefighters that run the department’s two machines. He says a small room could take just five minutes to disinfect.
Bonetti and his team are on call for cleanings like this around the city.
“They have to exit the facility immediately, exit the firehouse. We get called in, we’ll bring that, and we go ahead and decon the entire facility,” said Bonetti. “Takes us a couple hours to get it done.”
The machines are used in firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, at fire stations, the 911 center and a number of other city locations to supplement regular cleanings.
At Career High, they started decontamination two weeks ago by letting the building sit for two days. It was to allow viruses, if any, to die on surfaces. Then they followed with the two AeroClaves.
Fontana said the entire room was then wiped down, and a crew cleaned out the HVAC system Tuesday using a similar disinfecting solution, followed by replacing the HEPA filters.
“Once that’s done this building will be in tiptop shape, very safe for anyone to enter it,” said Fontana.
As this location closes, another opens at Albertus Magnus College. A dorm will be available for anyone, whether they’re homeless or not, who wants or needs a place to isolate while recovering from COVID-19.
“We consider ourselves a good neighbor and we certainly do several different things with the city and different neighborhoods,” said Andrea Kovacs, vice president of enrollment management and marketing at Albertus Magnus College. “It made sense for us to engage with them in this way.”
The building will be available until July 31.
Dr. Dalal says the city has made an effort to find a permanent home for people without one, who either sheltered at Career High or stayed in hotels around the city. They’ve placed 100 people into permanent homes.