March 27, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for a 100,000-square-foot temporary hospital to be built at the site of Queens Aqueduct Racetrack.
The governor is working to increase hospital capacity as the number of cases of coronavirus continues to increase across the state. There are now more than 44,000 cases statewide, Cuomo said today, and 25,573 cases across the five boroughs — as of 8:30 a.m. this morning.
“With COVID-19 spreading quickly, our number one priority is expanding hospital capacity,” Cuomo said on Twitter.
The governor will ask President Donald Trump to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to build the temporary facility at the Aqueduct today, he said.
The state’s normal hospital capacity is 53,000 beds and needs to get to about 140,000 beds at the apex of the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to hit in about 21 days.
The Aqueduct, along with an additional hospital site being scouted in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, would add another 4,000 beds to the state’s capacity.
Cuomo said he wanted each borough to have its own overflow facility. Manhattan was the first borough to get a temporary 1,000-bed hospital inside the Jacob Javits Center, where the governor delivered his daily press briefing today.
If President Trump gives the go-ahead, construction should take around 10 days, Cuomo said.
The governor said he is also eyeing further potential sites at dormitories, including CUNY Queens College.
“We’re looking at dormitories and converting dormitories downstate. We’re looking at City College dormitories, Queens College,” he said. “We have the dormitories because the colleges are closed and the students have left, so we actually have dormitories that we can convert.”
However, CUNY students who were forced out of their dorm rooms in campuses across the citywide school system — to free up dorms that will be converted into hospital rooms — were moved into Queens College dorm rooms, according to a report by The City.
The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment as to how this issue would be resolved.
Queens has been the hardest hit borough by the coronavirus. It has the greatest number of cases at 8,214 as of this morning and has had more than a third of all deaths citywide, as 124 Queens residents have died from COVID-19, according to New York City data.
In total, 1,659 Queens residents have been hospitalized for the virus as of 5 p.m. yesterday and Elmhurst Hospital has been called “the epicenter within the epicenter, dealing with an extraordinary surge of cases,” by the mayor.
Despite its 2.3 million residents, Queens has the fewest hospital beds per capita when compared to the four other boroughs. According to a February report by the Queens Borough President, it has just 1.66 beds per 1,000 people.
A medical facility at the Aqueduct Racetrack could potentially ease up high capacities of patients at hospitals across the borough.