Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference on the...

Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference on the coronavirus Monday at City Hall in Manhattan. Credit: Marcus Santos

New York City will add about 8,200 beds to a healthcare system officials fear will be overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, by converting privately owned and unused city buildings into medical facilities and expanding existing hospital capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. 

The mayor also called on the U.S. Department of Defense to provide medical staff and other personnel and equipment to help New Yorkers deal with a crisis that has left 463 people infected and seven dead. 

“We are going to need massive medical capactiy, on a scale we have never seen in New York City before,” de Blasio said at a news conference in Manhattan that followed his announcement Sunday to close city schools to stem the spread of the virus.

“We are going to be constantly building out medical facilities  and creating them where they have never existed before and retrofitting facilities that have nothing to do with health care,” de Blasio added. “We will turn them into hospitals as long as we can get the equipiment and personnel. We will keep building our capacity to meet the demand.” 

He said five facilities to test for the virus will also be constructed, although they will not be open to the general public. Instead they will focus on people with special needs such as healthcare workers, he said. The locations have not yet been determined. 

The mayor said all visitors will be barred from Department of Corrections facilities to protect inmates and DOC staff members. 

He also announced an emergency rule aimed at eliminating price gouging of items such as thermometers, cough suppressants and hand sanitizers. 

The Trump administration has not displayed the urgency required to mobilize resources to combat the pandemic, de Blasio said. He urged the federal govenment to divert medical personnel and other resources to states like New York and Washington that have been especially hard-hit. 

“We are going to have to set up emergency ICUs in hospitals, not only all over New York City but all over America,” de Blasio said Monday morning on MSNBC. “We are going to need the United States military to come in with their substantial logistical and medical capacity. We are going to need the supply chain nationalized in some form right now. There is no effort to make sure ventilators, surgical masks, even down to hand sanitizer, all these products should be put on a 24/7 production cycle.  Whatever factories anywhere can make them should be cranking them out, as you would in war.” 

During Monday’s news conference, de Blasio said there are 463 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the city as of 11 a.m. Seven people have died, including a 56-year-old Department of Corrections inspector and an 89-year-old man who had recently returned from Italy. 

“This is going to be very, very tough for all of us,” de Blasio said. “There is no question about it, there is going to be a lot of sacrifice here, a lot of pain. I hate to say it but it is true. Lives will continue to be lost. Our job is to try to help people in every way, and reduce to the maximum extent possible the lives that will be lost in this crisis.”


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