(CALMATTERS) – One big sign that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in California is over — at least for now: Nearly all of the alternate care sites set up to handle a projected surge in coronavirus patients have closed or will close in the next few months, the state announced Wednesday.

Many are closing without having treated a high volume of patients, which means the shelter-in-place strategy worked. But it also means quite a lot of taxpayer money was spent on hospital beds that remained mostly empty.

For example:

  • 65 patients have been treated at the so-called “Los Angeles Surge Hospital,” formerly St. Vincent Medical Center, for which the state paid nearly $15 million, said Rodger Butler, spokesperson for the California Health and Human Services Agency. The facility will close by June 30.
  • 354 patients have been treated at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, for which California has paid $10.4 million, Butler said. It will also close by June 30.
  • Seven patients have been treated at the field hospital set up in the Sacramento Kings’ former basketball arena, for which the state paid $1 million. The facility will close at the end of May.
  • 77 patients were treated on the USNS Mercy naval ship, which left Los Angeles last week to return to its home port of San Diego. (The state only had to pay some “associated costs,” said Cal OES public information officer Bryan May.)

That’s more than $26 million for about 426 patients (not counting the USNS Mercy). In hindsight, some may wonder if the state squandered resources. But at the outset of the pandemic in March, when predictions swirled that 56% of Californians could be infected with coronavirus in a few months, the state was scrambling to ensure it wouldn’t end up with overflowing hospitals like New York and set a goal of obtaining 50,000 hospital beds.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19“Let’s not regret. Let’s not dream of regretting, go back and say, ‘Well, you know what, we coulda, woulda, shoulda.’ Not when the data all points to where I think most of us know we’re going.”

Not all alternate care sites are being shut down. A federal medical station is being deployed to Imperial County, which has the highest per-capita hospitalization rate in the state and which has two hospitals that turned away new coronavirus patients Tuesday after admitting an influx of patients from Mexico.