Emergency hospital going up in Central Park as coronavirus death toll continues to quickly rise

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — An emergency hospital was erected in tents in Central Park Sunday as the New York City’s staggering toll of coronavirus deaths rose to at least 776, pushing the statewide count past 1,000.

“We’re going to be using every place we need to use to help people,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “This is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops and deepens.”

The emergency site will open at the park’s East Meadow on Tuesday and house 68 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, according to de Blasio. He said the Mount Sinai Health System, the faith-based charity Samaritan’s Purse — run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham — the Central Park Conservancy and his own office were collaborating on the undertaking.

Graham put out a call for help on Twitter Sunday, and posted a video of workers building the tents to house the field hospital.

“If you are a Christian doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other medical professional interested in serving COVID-19 patients in our @SamaritansPurse Emergency Field Hospital in NYC, please visit http://samaritanspurse.org,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, federal officials are building an emergency, 1,000-bed hospital at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The Army Corps of Engineers has also identified sites in Westchester County, home to the state’s first large cluster of coronavirus cases, and on Long Island for emergency hospitals

The city’s coronavirus death toll rose from 517 as of Saturday at 10 a.m. to 678 as of Sunday at 9:30 a.m., city stats showed — nearly one fatality every nine minutes.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose 10.8% during the same time span, from 29,158 to 32,308.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Sunday, another 98 people died and 1,166 more people were diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the number of dead to 776.

Prior to that, the state had recorded 965 deaths — not factoring in the afternoon increase.

“It’s so painful for everyone that we’re going through this and we have to fight back with everything we’ve got,” de Blasio said. “Every death is painful. I feel a particular sense of loss when it’s one of our public servants.”

He went on to lament the recent deaths of NYPD Detective Cedric Dixon, NYPD administrative assistant Giacomina Barr-Brown, MTA conductors Oliver Cyrus and Peter Petrassi and FDNY mechanic James Villecco, along with four others.

“This is the kind of unsung hero who doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” de Blasio said of Villecco, who joined the FDNY in 2014. “This is the kind of man who keeps us safe because he kept the ambulances in good repair so they could get there to help all of us. We grieve with his family in Staten Island.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a faint glimmer of hope in the crisis, saying the rate at which new cases are doubling slowed to once every six days, down from once every other day earlier this month.

“The doubling rate is slowing and that is good news, but the number of cases are still going up,” Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany. “So you’re still going up towards an apex, but the rate of the doubling is slowing.”

Nevertheless, he extended the state’s “pause” order shuttering most businesses and urging New Yorkers to stay at home as much as possible to April 15.

New York State’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases reached 59,513 Sunday — with 7,195 new cases — according to Cuomo’s office.

Hot on the heels of a historic $2 trillion economic rescue package from Congress, de Blasio called on the feds to distribute “billions” of additional dollars in another stimulus bill next month.

“The next stimulus needs to replace the lost revenue that cities and states have lost as a result of coronavirus,” de Blasio said. “There is no other viable path to making up the kind of revenue we’ve lost — billions upon billions of dollars very quickly; more to come, unfortunately — while we’re trying to keep essential services going.”

City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently predicted the coronavirus could cost the city up to $6 billion in tax revenue.

“There’s no question in my mind at this point that a fourth stimulus bill is coming and coming relatively soon,” de Blasio said, noting he has discussed the matter with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the city’s congressional delegation.

The mayor repeated calls for the feds to send more ventilators, saying he asked for 400 more units by Friday and an extra shipment on top of that by next Sunday.

Over the past two weeks, the city has sent 55 ventilators to Queens’ Elmhurst Hospital, one of the hardest hit health care facilities in the city, according to de Blasio. Thirteen people died of coronavirus there in one 24-hour span last week.

The city also sent 169 doctors, registered nurses and other clinicians to the beleaguered hospital, de Blasio said.

“The incredibly valiant team at Elmhurst has gone through so much in the last few weeks. That’s an extraordinarily effective hospital,” de Blasio said, adding that the city has hired 500 extra nurses, with another 500 to come this week.

Cuomo called for greater cooperation between publicly run and private hospitals, saying he’d ask de Blasio and Stringer how they can help tear down an “artificial” wall between them.

“If New York City gets overwhelmed, we’ll ask the upstate systems to be a relief valve for the downstate health systems … and also vice versa,” the governor said.

Both Cuomo and the mayor sought to reassure New Yorkers as the unrelenting crisis continues.

The governor encouraged people to try to “find a silver lining in all of this,” saying he and his family are continuing their tradition of Sunday dinners via Skype and phone.

“We will get through this together,” said de Blasio. “That is something that comes back to just the pure strength of this place and our people.”


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