Schools closed until April 15; Temporary hospital opens at Javits Center

Photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor
A temporary hospital is nearing completion at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. State officials are looking to build several more hospitals in the coming weeks as COVID-19 cases are expected to hit a peak by mid- to late-April.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held his daily press conference on Friday from the Javits Convention Center in New York City, the site of a new temporary hospital that will serve as the model for several more in the days and weeks to come.

On March 18 public schools statewide closed for two weeks with a plan for the government to reassess the situation April 1. Today Cuomo announced he believes all schools should remain closed for another two weeks until at least April 15 due to the spread of the virus, when another reassessment will be made. Public schools are required to continue offering childcare for essential workers, provide meals to students in need and implement distance learning programs.

The increase in cases of COVID-19 continues as New York remains the most affected state in the country. As of today 44,635 people have tested positive for the virus with approximately 6,000 patients in the hospital and over 1,500 patients in Intensive Care Units.

In light of this pandemic, Cuomo stated that New York needs 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds in the coming weeks, while there are currently 53,000 beds and 3,000 ICU beds. At the rate the virus is growing, 30,000 ventilators will be needed to treat this respiratory virus; 10 times more than the state currently has.

Illustration by Emma Misiaszek, Legislative Gazette

With the state’s budget deadline approaching, Cuomo commented on the state of New York’s economy, “The federal government said, promised, implied, stated that they would provide aid to state governments. They passed the bill that didn’t do that,” Cuomo stated. “We’re going to have to dramatically cut our state expenses. We’re going to have to cut education aid.”

The state did receive $5 billion from the federal government specifically for coronavirus expenses. In response to predictions that the apex of cases will occur in 21 days, Cuomo is expanding state plans to ramp up hospital capacity with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The conversion of the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan to a temporary hospital was just completed, while the Westchester County Center and State University of New York Stony Brook and Old Westbury campuses are still undergoing construction to be utilized as temporary hospitals.

Cuomo announced plans to build another four temporary hospitals which will provide another 4,000 beds, stating he will be asking for President Trump’s approval later today. These new proposed sites include the New York Expo Center in the Bronx, the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Brooklyn and the City University of New York College of Staten Island in Staten Island.

“So as you can see we’re looking far and wide and being very creative and aggressive. We are finding all the space that we can possibly find and converting it to be ready in case we have that overflow capacity,” Cuomo said.

There are also plans to convert the dormitories of CUNY City College and CUNY Queens College, the Marriot Brooklyn Bridge Hotel and the Brooklyn Center Nursing Home into overflow hospital locations.

Cuomo expressed his gratitude for all the medical personnel volunteering to staff the additional beds being created and for the National Guard’s work in creating these temporary hospitals.

“Every time I’ve called out the National Guard I’ve said the same thing to you: I promise you I will not ask you to do anything that I will not do myself. And I’ll never ask you to go anywhere that I won’t go myself,” Cuomo said. “And the same is true here. We’re going to do this. And we’re going to do this together.”