NY to open emergency hospital on Staten Island as cases rise
New York’s governor said he is reopening an emergency COVID-19 field hospital on Staten Island as the number of infections keep climbing, the first such facility in the state to relaunch since the state partly tamed the pandemic over the summer.
The temporary hospital on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Hospital cared for 200 patients in spring, when New York City’s hospital wards were overwhelmed with seriously ill and dying coronavirus patients.
Now, Cuomo said officials are concerned it might be needed again, as the virus has spread in the borough at a faster rate than in the rest of the city. Staten Island has averaged 209 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the past seven days — up 86% from two weeks ago.
“The hospitals have contacted us and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island,” Cuomo told reporters at a briefing at his Manhattan office Monday. “Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that’s what we have to do on Staten Island.”
Staten Island University Hospital’s north campus reported 88 COVID-19 patients as of Saturday, taking up about one-fifth of the hospital’s 472 beds, according to state data. That’s more than triple the number it had on Nov. 1.
The governor, a Democrat, also designated the southern half of Staten Island as an “orange zone” under his weeks-old micro-cluster plan, which will require schools and high-risk businesses like gyms to close temporarily, halt indoor dining at restaurants and limit gatherings inside houses of worship to no more than 25 people.
Cuomo announced new orange zones in parts of Onondaga County, home to Syracuse, and Monroe County, home to Rochester.
New yellow zones, which require mandatory testing of students, were also created in several parts of the state.
Cuomo said he is worried that news of vaccines passing clinical trials could give people a false sense of security about the need to still follow social distancing and mask rules during the holiday season.
“The vaccination is not going to be here in time to stop an increasing infection rate,” he said.
A spokesperson for Richmond University Medical Center, a roughly 470-bed hospital on Staten Island, said the caseload there of around 19 coronavirus patients is manageable for now. That’s up somewhat from the single-digit numbers that persisted throughout September and most of October, but nowhere near the 210 who were there at the high point in early April, Alex Lutz said.
“The hope is that, while the numbers are expected to increase, it will be a gradual increase, which would be much more manageable than it was in the spring,” Lutz said, with clinicians and staffers able to draw on treatments and other knowledge that’s built up since the initial surge.
New York state has averaged nearly 5,500 new cases per day over the past seven days.
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Hospitals and nursing homes have reported 665 COVID-19 deaths in the state over the past 30 days — more than in July, August and September combined.