Brooklyn Boro

Despite its high case count, no temporary coronavirus hospital is planned for Brooklyn

Eric Adams said he's 'disheartened' that his suggested sites weren't chosen

March 23, 2020 Mary Frost
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Eagle file photo by Andy Katz

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that he had authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to build four temporary hospitals in New York state to help manage the novel coronavirus outbreak. One of the hospitals will be built in New York City, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

This didn’t sit well with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who said on Sunday that he was “surprised and disheartened” that none of the Brooklyn sites his office had suggested were chosen.

“We are not only the most populous county in the state, with more than 2.6 million people — we also currently have the most confirmed cases [of the novel coronavirus] of any borough in the city,” Adams said in a release.

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Adams added, “We are hearing from numerous hospitals throughout Brooklyn that will be unable to accommodate new patients in a matter of days unless we take immediate action.”

As of Sunday evening, Brooklyn had 3,154 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest number of any borough in the city, followed by Queens and Manhattan. Overall, there were 10,746 positive cases in New York City.

New York state has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and has only half the hospital beds it’s projected to need, Cuomo warned on Sunday.

Across the state, 53,000 hospital beds are available, but the disease’s growth curve suggests New York will need 110,000 beds. There are only about 3,000 ICU beds in New York, a shortfall of at least 15,000, according to projections.

Three temporary hospitals are set to be built outside of New York City — at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center. The dormitories on the campuses will be used for healthcare staff.

New York has also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to erect four federal hospitals at the Javits Center, 250 beds each, which would come with FEMA staff and supplies.

Cuomo said these hospitals would “give us regional coverage in downstate New York which is our most heavily impacted area.”

Adams, however, said it was “critical that we target this increased capacity to the areas that need it most,” and that Brooklyn was one such area.

Adams’ office sent a letter to the governor and the mayor last week identifying potential locations that could serve as overflow sites. These included the Brooklyn House of Detention, New York City Department of Education school buildings, the 13th Regiment Armory, the Bedford Atlantic Armory, the Marcy Avenue Armory, the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, and Floyd Bennett Field/Aviator Sports and Events Center.

While the Army Corp of Engineers did not chose any of those sites, Cuomo did say that the state would be taking over numerous nursing homes to convert into temporary hospitals, including the new, never-occupied, 600-bed Brooklyn Health Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare.

The state has just 3,157 ICU beds, which are critical for patients with COVID-19 because they come equipped with ventilators. However, the state is projected to need between 18,600 and 37,200 ICU beds, Cuomo said. There are 301 ICU beds in Brooklyn, according to the New York State Department of Health.

On a related note, Cuomo urged President Trump to nationalize the acquisition of medical supplies through the Defense Production Act as the states are currently forced to outbid each other for the scarce equipment. Even hospitals in New York must compete against each other for supplies, and price gouging is rampant.

“For masks we were paying 85 cents. Those same masks have gone up to $7. Ventilators have gone from $16,000 to $40,000 each and New York needs 30,000 ventilators. This is impossible,” he said. “If we don’t get ventilators we will lose lives.”

Cuomo issued an executive order on Friday mandating sweeping restrictions on businesses and social life across New York state due to the exponential spread of the virus. The order, which he dubbed “PAUSE” (Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone) went into effect Sunday evening. Only essential businesses are allowed to have employees working outside of the home, and all residents must remain indoors except for essential activities. For businesses that don’t comply, there will be civil fines and there could be mandatory closure, Cuomo said. No fines or penalties for individuals who don’t comply have been announced.

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