Apr 1, 2020 - Health

NYC races to build field hospitals as coronavirus death toll tops 1,000

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at the USTA Bille Jean King tennis center
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces at the USTA Bille Jean King tennis center that the venue will be transformed into a 350-bed temporary hospital. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference Tuesday of plans to triple hospital bed numbers to combat the novel coronavirus by transforming facilities into makeshift hospitals — including U.S. Open tennis courts.

The big picture: The city now accounts for a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. — more than 1,000 as of Wednesday morning. De Blasio said NYC had "about 20,000 working hospital beds in our major hospitals" before the outbreak. "We now need to, in just the next weeks ... produce three times that number," he said.

Zoom in: The 14-tent, 68-bed respiratory care unit Samaritan's Purse Emergency Field Hospital in Central Park is opening on Wednesday, in partnership with the Mount Sinai Health System.

  • The Javits Convention Center is being transformed into an emergency hospital, with the first 1,000-bed facility accepting patients on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
  • De Blasio said it would take three weeks to build the makeshift 350-bed hospital at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

What he's saying: De Blasio said he questioned the field hospital projections at first. But he added, "Look at how quickly a hospital can be created. Whether it is in a place like the Javits Center or a place like this tennis center or a hotel, we know how to make any number of buildings into a hospital in a matter of days."

  • The mayor said "thousands of beds" would be built at the Javits Center alone. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, docked in New York, "starts with 750" beds, but "it can go up to 1,000 beds," he added.
  • "Lot of hotels, hundreds and hundreds of beds each," De Blasio said. "We’re just going to keep going every single day, adding and adding and adding to get to the point where we have what we need."
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