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Army Corps of Engineers to place canvas tents at Stony Brook, Old Westbury

Workers build a road on Tuesday to access

Workers build a road on Tuesday to access an athletic facility on the campus of Stony Brook University as part of the Army Corps of Engineers' effort to add hospital beds for the coronavirus crisis. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The two temporary hospitals under construction at Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury are set to open by April 19, with all but 100 of the more than 2,000 beds in canvas tents, Army Corps of Engineers officials said Wednesday.

The projects are part of a state and federal effort to more than double the number of hospital beds in New York as the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 surges. The peak is now expected in late April, although predictions of the apex range from between one and six weeks from now, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The Stony Brook and Old Westbury beds will be for non-COVID-19 patients, to ease the strain of New York hospitals treating coronavirus patients, said Michael Embrich, a spokesman for the New York district of the Army Corps, which is working with state and university officials on the projects.

Climate-controlled tents with multiple layers of insulation are being erected on each campus, Embrich said in an email.

All 1,038 Stony Brook patients will be housed in tents, as will 900 Old Westbury patients, with the remaining 100 Old Westbury beds in a gymnasium, Embrich said.

The Army Corps’ Stony Brook contract, with Manhattan-based Turner Construction Co., is for $50 million, he said. Embrich did not have details of the Old Westbury contract.

There typically are only 53,000 beds in hospitals statewide, but up to 140,000 are needed, Cuomo said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday she’s worried whether the beds at Old Westbury will be ready when the peak is expected to hit, and whether there will be enough health professionals to staff it, with staffing already becoming “stretched and depleted” at Nassau hospitals.

Cuomo appeared to express concern about staffing at the temporary hospitals, saying that “you will run out of staff before you run out of beds.” He also said the hospitals would be used only “if you max out your bed capacity.”

A Cuomo administration official said Friday that the staff will come in part from medical professionals who have responded to a state call for volunteers.

In addition to Long Island, the Army Corps and state opened a temporary hospital at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan this week, and hospitals are set to open this month in Westchester County, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. A 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship arrived in Manhattan on Monday.

With Rachelle Blidner

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