Story at a glance
- New York City is one of the epicenters of the novel coronavirus in the United States.
- An area of Central Park has been designated as a site for a field hospital amid the pandemic.
- Patients will reportedly be transferred to the field hospital from the Mount Sinai hospital system.
As white tents went up on Central Park’s East Meadow, photos began circulating on social media. New York City’s iconic swath of green was starting to resemble a wartime field hospital.
With more than 30,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City and 776 deaths as of the morning of March 30, the city's battle against the disease is raging on. And even as health care workers fly in from around the country, hospitals are running out of space.
Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian charity led by a son of the late Billy Graham, has set up similar field hospitals in Iraq during the battle over Mosul and both Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Ebola virus epidemic.
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Now, volunteers from the organization and local churches are setting up a 68-bed emergency field hospital in New York City, similar to one the charity constructed in Cremona, Italy, which has emerged as an epicenter of COVID-19’s spread in Europe. A convoy of trucks arrived from North Carolina on March 28 with supplies after leaving earlier that day for the field hospital, which opens March 31.
“This is honestly the most improbable place we’ve ever been,” Dr. Elliot Tenpenny, who is leading a team of 70 health care workers at the site, told The New York Post. “I never would have guessed we’d come to New York City with something like this. But New York never thought it would be dealing with a pandemic, either.”
Patients will be transferred from Mount Sinai’s hospital system, as the city sets up a temporary hospital at Javits Convention Center to treat patients who do not have COVID-19.
The Army Corps of Engineers has set up 1,200 beds with the help of two Army field hospitals and the Navy’s hospital ship the USNS Comfort, according to ABC News. With room for up to 2,910, each hospital bed is enclosed in a "pod" of three temporary walls and a curtain entrance. A staff of 350 medical personnel from FEMA, as well as 600 soldiers from the 531st Hospital Center from Fort Campbell and the 9th Hospital Center from Fort Hood will treat patients for "a matter of months, not weeks," an army commander told ABC News.
"This is obviously the absolute top priority of the nation right now, and knowing that our very well-trained and capable [531st] Hospital Center is going to be part of this makes us really proud," Maj. Gen. Brian Winski told ABC News "They're well trained, they're prepared and readiness is our watchword; they're prepared to deploy in a moment's notice, which is exactly what they did and they are going to make a huge impact.”
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