Bedford-Stuyvesant

Coronavirus update: Brooklyn Hospital tent could be city’s screening model

The outdoor tents connect to the ER for serious cases

March 17, 2020 Mary Frost
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams unveiled a new on-site tent facility at Brooklyn Hospital Center on March 17, 2020 to screen patients who believe they have COVID-19. The pre-screening will help determine if the patients need to receive tests for the virus and will help with overcrowding in emergency rooms. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

To prepare for an expected deluge of novel coronavirus cases, The Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene on Tuesday unveiled a new outdoor tent facility to pre-screen people for the virus.

This is the first such facility in Brooklyn, but more are expected to roll out in the coming days. (There are also drive through testing centers coming. The first in New York City will open in Staten Island within a few days.)

Borough President Eric Adams said that his office is identifying other sites in Brooklyn that could be converted to backup hospitals to handle the expected crush. These include the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue, a Department of Education building on Livingston Street, the Armory in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, along with other sites. The Aviator space at Floyd Bennet Field could add a heated tent as well, he said.

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In addition, U.S. Rep. Max Rose, along with Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Tom Suozzi and Jose Serrano are calling for President Trump to deploy a naval hospital ship to New York City.

“We write to ask that you immediately ready the naval hospital ship USNS Comfort, currently retrofitted at Norfolk, VA for deployment to New York City in support of our city’s fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic,” the representatives wrote to the president. The Comfort contains 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, 1,000 hospital beds, lab facilities and an oxygen-producing plant.

Brooklyn Hospital Center, with Borough President Eric Adams, unveiled a new on-site tent facility on March 17, 2020 to screen patients who believe they have COVID-19. The pre-screening will help determine if the patients need to receive tests for the virus and will help with overcrowding in emergency rooms. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Brooklyn Hospital Center’s new pre-screening tent. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the number of confirmed cases in New York City had jumped to 814, and warned that city residents should prepare for a “shelter-in-place” order in the coming days. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who earlier said he might be open to the idea, shot it down for now, noting that only the governor has the power to make such a decision.

Funneling incoming patients through pre-screening tents like the one at Brooklyn Hospital will prevent hundreds of people with undetermined illnesses from flooding the emergency room, Adams and hospital officials said.

Brooklyn Hospital’s tent is connected to the emergency room, and patients who have severe symptoms, such as respiratory distress, will be sent straight through to the ER.


Gary Terrinoni, president and CEO of the hospital, said hospital staff was “literally working 24 hours, around the clock,” to prepare for incoming cases. “What was normal three weeks ago is not normal today,” he said.

Terrinoni said that the hospital is licensed for more than 400 beds, but typically uses less than 300. The cost of the coronavirus test would be handled like any other ER bill, Terrinoni said.

Brooklyn Hospital Center President and CEO Gary Terrinoni, with Borough President Eric Adams, unveiled a new on-site tent facility on March 17, 2020 to screen patients who believe they have COVID-19. The pre-screening will help determine if the patients need to receive tests for the virus and will help with overcrowding in emergency rooms. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Brooklyn Hospital Center President and CEO Gary Terrinoni. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Prescreening services at Brooklyn Hospital start Wednesday, and will be carried out by health care workers using tools such as remote thermometers. The hospital currently has the capacity for just 100 coronavirus tests a day, and the tent will not change that capacity.

Sylvie de Souza, chair of Emergency Medicine at the hospital, said the tent would be open from 8 a.m. to midnight every day.

Further innovations, such as remote pre-screen via telemedicine, are also needed in the face of the crisis, Adams said.

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned the escalating COVID-19 cases could “crash like a wave” on hospitals lacking the capacity to handle them, unless people practice social distancing, hand washing and other practices, which could “smooth the curve.”

His health experts estimate peak coronavirus will come in roughly 45 days in New York, Cuomo said. Statewide, there is so far a 19 percent hospitalization rate.

Brooklyn Hospital Center, with Borough President Eric Adams, unveiled a new on-site tent facility on March 17, 2020 to screen patients who believe they have COVID-19. The pre-screening will help determine if the patients need to receive tests for the virus and will help with overcrowding in emergency rooms. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Inside the pre-screening tent. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Cuomo said the state is moving immediately to increase hospital surge capacity. The State Department of Health is suspending some regulations to allow existing hospitals to increase space. Cuomo has also called on the Trump administration to throw the full powers of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers into converting SUNY university dorms and government facilities into hospitals.

“I spoke with the president yesterday. He is ready, willing and able to help,” Cuomo said. “I put my hand out in partnership with the president … I think he is 100 percent sincere in saying he wants to work together.”

Of the 814 confirmed cases in New York City, 157 are in Brooklyn, 248 are in Queens, 277 in Manhattan, 96 in the Bronx and 36 are in Staten Island. Seven people in the city have died so far.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams unveiled a new on-site tent facility at Brooklyn Hospital Center on Tuesday to screen patients who believe they have COVID-19. Photo: Mary Frost
Inside the COVID-19 pre-screening tent. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

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