New York’s Central Park to be transformed into hospital


NEW YORK Emergency field hospitals were readied in New York’s Central Park and at the home of the US Open tennis tournament Tuesday on a day when the US death toll from the coronavirus surpassed that of China. The pandemic has killed some 1,000 New Yo rke rs and P resident Donald Trump warned in Washington of “a very, very painful two weeks” to come for the country. Already the hardest-hit area, America’s financial capital is in a race to ramp up hospital capacity before cases peak. Around a dozen tents, equipped with 68 beds and 10 ventilators, have been put up in Manhattan’s iconic park, with COVID19 patients expected to start arriving later Tuesday. Related: Trump wants US to be geared up for ‘very painful weeks’ to fight co ronavi rus “You see movies like Contagion and you think it’s so far from the truth, it will never happen. So to see it actually happening here is very surreal,” 57-year-old passerby Joanne Dunbar told AFP. Declared coronavirus cases across the US surged to 188,172 on Tuesday, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, with 3,873 deaths. That is more than the fatalities reported by China. New York state has seen far more cases — 75,000 — and deaths than any other since announcing its first infection on March 1 and quickly emerging as the epicenter of the US outbreak. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday the city was tripling hospital capacity in a bid to get ready for the peak of the pandemic expected in two to three weeks. “(We) will require a level of hospital capacity we’ve never seen… never even conceived of,” he told NBC. Fallout is spreading wider every day across the world’s biggest economy. The captain of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most fearsome assets in the US arsenal, pleaded for large-scale evacuation, saying that the virus was spreading uncontrollably through his crew, currently in the US Pacific territory of Guam. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a letter to his superiors, US media reported. Defense Secretary Mark Esper later downplayed the drama, saying that no one was “seriously ill.” But in New York, officials are already in full blown crisis management mode, as they scramble to deal with the influx of sick when hospitals are already overwhelmed and medical supplies strained. South of Central Park, the Javits Convention Center is now operational with nearly 3,000 beds after it was adapted by the Army Corps of Engineers. It will take nonCOVID-19 patients to ease the burden on hospitals focusing on the virus. A few blocks away at Pier 90 sits the white, imposing US navy hospital ship Comfort, with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms — also for non-coronavirus patients. A 350-bed facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, where the US Open tennis takes place every summer, is due to start receiving coronavirus patients next week. Governor Andrew Cuomo — whose brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, announced he had the virus Tuesday — warned New Yorkers that the fight to defeat COVID-19 was going to be a long one. “Calibrate yourself and your expectations so you’re not disappointed every day you get up,” he told reporters. Tim Mosher — nurse team leader at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Central Park — said the site’s 70 staff, mostly volunteers, would stay for as long as needed.—AFP

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