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Governor calls on federal government to authorize more field hospitals in New York City

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Javits Center, which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 27, 2020. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday he will ask the federal government to authorize the construction of four more field hospitals in New York City. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently building four 1,000-bed temporary hospitals in Manhattan’s Javits Center, Westchester Center, Stony Brook and Old Westbury to prepare for the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases. If the federal government gives the okay for four additional hospitals, that would eventually add another 4,000 beds to the state’s stockpile of medical supplies and equipment. 

“This is what this is all about, not overwhelming the hospital capacity that we have while also increasing capacity,” said Governor Cuomo who expects the number of positive coronavirus cases to reach its apex in 21 days. As of Friday, there are 44,635 positive cases of the novel coronavirus in New York State with 25,398 of those cases in New York City,and according to state data. 

There are plans to erect temporary hospitals in every borough and in the city’s surrounding counties, said the governor, in order to provide equal access to all downstate New Yorkers who may fall ill because of the virus.  

The state and the Army Corps of Engineers have scouted out potential field hospital sites that are roughly the same size as the Javits Center. The four sites the state plans on pitching as new temporary hospitals are The New York Expo Center in the Bronx, a 90,000-square-foot site, the Aqueduct Racetracks in Queens, 100,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, 182,000 square feet and the College of Staten Island, 77,000 square feet in size. 

At these new sites, The Army Corps of Engineers would replicate the Javits Center’s model and place beds and essential medical equipment inside and erect tents to house supplies and equipment outside of the sites.

The goal, said Governor Cuomo, is to up the number of hospital beds in the state from 53,000 140,000. There is a special focus on Intensive Care Units. Even though the majority of people who contract coronavirus do not become very ill, those that become several often rely on ventilators to help breath. When the virus first spread to New York there were 3,000 ICU beds, now the state will need 40,000 ICU beds to help with coronavirus patients. To facilitate this, the governor mandated hospitals across the state  to increase their capacity by 50 percent and  encouraged them to increase capacity by 100 percent if possible. 

To help reach the goal of 140,000 beds, the a floating hospital, USNS Comfort,is scheduled to dock in New York Harbor on Monday March 30, supplying the city with 1,000 beds, 1,200 medical personnel and 12 operating rooms, a pharmacy and a lab. The USNS will not be for coronavirus patients and instead will act as a relief system for other hospitals. The state is also plans to convert dormitories at City College and Queens College into temporary hospital rooms as well as hotels like the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge Hotel and nursing homes like the Brooklyn Center Nursing Home. 

Governor Cuomo said that the city could expect the Javits Center to be ready to house coronavirus patients between March 30 and April 5, for hotels and dormitories to begin housing the sick the week of April 6 and more hospital open hospital beds to become available during the following two weeks.

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