SACRAMENTO (AP/CBS13) — California spent nearly $200 million to set up, operate and staff 21 alternate care sites that ultimately provided little help when the state’s worst coronavirus surge spiraled out of control last winter. It was a costly way to learn that California’s hospital system is far more elastic than was thought at the start of the pandemic.

The system was able to expand enough to accommodate most patients during the dire surge that saw hospitalizations top 20,000 and nearly 700 people die weekly. Officials say they have since learned to be more flexible and work more closely with the existing medical system.

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One of those sites was set up at the former Sleep Train Arena in Natomas last spring.

The Sleep Train Arena Alternate Care Facility housed 360 beds for COVID-19 patients and took in its first patient on April 30, 2020, according to Cal OES.

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In January, there were 19 patients being treated there.

Using Sacramento Kings’ former home to house patients came with a $500,000-a-month bill — and taxpayers are footing the cost, according to documents obtained from the state. Costs included maintenance, utilities and security.

In early April 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the use of the arena in preparation for a sudden increase in patients over what local hospitals could handle. At the time, there was no mention of the financial agreement.

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