New York City welcomes more hospital beds, but still needs many more

A handful of white tents popped up in Central Park’s East Meadow on Sunday. The structures are Mount Sinai Hospital’s new 68-bed field hospital and are just one creative way that New York City is hoping to create 40,000 more hospital beds.

Mayor Bill de Blasio estimates that the city will need the additional beds, either for ICU or non-urgent care, if they are to combat the coronavirus crisis which has affected at least 36,221 people and killed 790 across the city as of Monday morning.

The apex of the crisis, when cases are expected to peak, is predicted to be in around three weeks.

New York City, which has 20,000 existing hospital beds, will need 60,000 by May, de Blasio said in a news conference Monday.

That’s the equivalent of 40 Navy hospital ships such as the USNS Comfort, the 1,000-bed naval ship that arrived in New York City on Monday and prepared to take non-intensive-care patients as early as Tuesday.

“We need to triple our hospital-bed capacity,” de Blasio said. “It’s a daunting task.”

Hospitals are upping their capacity by adding more beds to their existing facilities and creating or utilizing new spaces for them, such as the Central Park field hospital or Roosevelt Island’s Coler facility, an empty NYC Health + Hospitals space that will be home to 350 beds, de Blasio said earlier this month. When emailed for comment regarding capacity, a representative for Health + Hospitals referred MarketWatch to de Blasio’s comments in his news conferences.

Hospitals are also being transformed into near-complete ICU operations, according to the mayor.

“What we have to do is convert as many as possible — potentially almost all of those traditional hospital beds — into ICU beds,” de Blasio said. “We have to make whole hospitals into intensive-care units to get through these next weeks, that’s how dire, that’s how tough this situation is.”

For other patients who require hospitalization, but who do not need intensive care, facilities like the USNS Comfort will be able to provide services, de Blasio added.

“Each location will be different, but it will allow us to keep our health-care system going while we convert the core hospitals,” he said.

Along with the USNS Comfort, now docked at Pier 88 on Manhattan’s West Side, New York City’s Javits Center has just completed its transition into an emergency hospital, which will offer 2,500 beds, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Neither facility will be for COVID-19 patients, Cuomo said, but will act as a “relief valve” for hospitals.

Joining the Javits Center will be four newly approved emergency hospitals in New York City, each with the capacity to hold 1,000 beds.

The four facilities — the New York Expo Center in the Bronx; the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens; the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal; and the College of Staten Island — could be complete within 10 days, the governor said Friday.

Coronavirus has hit New York harder than any other state. According to Cuomo, 66,497 people have tested positive for the virus and 1,218 people have died as of Monday.