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Governor: Temporary hospital beds on Long Island to be ready week of April 13

SUNY Old Westbury is one of two schools

SUNY Old Westbury is one of two schools where the state and Army Corps of Engineers will set up temporary hospital beds for coronavirus patients. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Temporary hospitals with 1,000 beds each at SUNY Old Westbury and Stony Brook University will open by the week of April 13, about when the state is predicting the peak in COVID-19 patients, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday.

Construction has not begun on either campus, but officials with the Army Corps of Engineers — who are helping in the effort — are on the ground with state and college officials, said Michael Embrich, a spokesman for the New York district of the Army Corps. A contract for the Stony Brook construction was awarded Thursday night, he said in an email.

“Our model mainly consists of converting existing structures into alternate care facilities,” Embrich said. “We are still assessing the need at these locations.”

In his coronavirus update Friday, Cuomo said hospital beds would be housed indoors, with outdoor tents possible for storing supplies and equipment.

“They are all underway as we speak, not as far along as your good work at Javits, but they are on their way,” Cuomo said of the two Long Island sites and one in Westchester County, as he sat inside a temporary hospital at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan that is slated to open Monday. Cuomo also announced Friday that more hospitals will be built during April in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

Cuomo said the number of COVID-19 cases in New York, which Friday reached 44,635, with 519 deaths, is expected to peak in three weeks, potentially overwhelming the state’s hospitals unless more beds and ventilators are added.

Once the Long Island hospitals are open, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will run the facilities, Embrich said.

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"The general idea is to open up beds at existing hospitals for COVID-19 patients and move people that can be moved or people who are non-acute to the temporary hospitals," a Cuomo administration official said Friday night.

The staff for the hospitals will be housed in university dormitories, which have been largely vacant since SUNY campuses switched to mainly online learning earlier this month, and will come in part from medical professionals who have responded to Cuomo’s call for COVID-19 volunteers, the Cuomo administration official said..

Stony Brook on Friday declined to comment on the temporary hospital, referring questions to the governor’s office. Old Westbury said in a statement that “administrative staff of SUNY Old Westbury have been in discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers for several days about the physical resources of our campus,” but referred other questions to the Army Corps and governor’s office.

In addition to the four temporary hospitals, the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship with 1,000 beds, is expected to arrive in New York Harbor on Monday. President Donald Trump said he will be in Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday for the ship’s departure.

Cuomo said Friday that as many as 140,000 beds may be needed statewide to handle the surge in patients. There are typically only 53,000, he said.

In addition to the 9,000 new beds expected from the eight temporary hospitals and the hospital ship, there will be an estimated 32,000 from a state-mandated 50% increase in beds at existing hospitals, with 5,000 of those coming from hospitals going beyond the state’s requirement, Cuomo said.

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