Coronavirus: Field hospital built in Central Park as New York death toll rises

Mayor says 68-bed tent facility is sign of things to come

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 30 March 2020 17:30 BST
Mayor de Blasio announces field hospital will be built in Central Park

As New York City continues to battle the US’s most serious coronavirus outbreak, city authorities have given the go-ahead for the construction of a field hospital in Central Park.

Designed as a respiratory care unit, the tent hospital will be staffed by doctors, nurses and other medical staff, and will accommodate up to 68 patients. Similar tent-based hospitals have been created in northern Italy, which has seen one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

Announcing the hospital’s construction, New York mayor Bill de Blasio forecast that it would be less an anomaly than a sign of things to come.

“We’re going to be using every place we need to use to help people. Mount Sinai Hospital working with the relief organisation named Samaritan’s Purse is creating a 68-bed field hospital. So this is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops and deepens,” he said.

Mr de Blasio said he expected the hospital, which is being erected in the park’s east meadow, to be operational by Tuesday.

The number of Covid-19 cases in New York continues to rise dramatically. Authorities recently reported 98 deaths in just seven hours, bringing the city’s overall death toll to 776. Meanwhile, footage of overstretched hospitals and refrigerated trucks repurposed as morgues has brought new attention to the desperate situation facing the city’s health care system.

Mount Sinai hospital, one of the partners in the construction of the field hospital, recently lost a 48-year-old nurse manager to Covid-19. His death came amid allegations that staff at the hospital were working with inadequate protective equipment, and using the same gowns and masks with different patients. One picture showed staff wrapping themselves in black plastic bags.

Many medical staff elsewhere in the city have been infected; some are being treated in ICU wards, and several have died. Medics are flying into the city from elsewhere in the US; Southwest Airlines last week shared a photo of 30 medical staff from Georgia headed for New York to assist.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has become one of the US’s highest-profile public figures during the coronavirus crisis, is now calling for the federal government to help his state find tens of thousands of ventilators to cope with the sheer number of patients needing critical care.

Donald Trump has expressed scepticism that the need for ventilators is genuine. However, he has also given the go-ahead for a hospital mission by naval hospital ship USNS Comfort to be stationed off New York, where it will provide 1,000 beds for patients who need treatment for conditions other than Covid-19 but who cannot be accommodated in overwhelmed hospitals.

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