Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the temporary facility at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park would begin treating non-ICU patients n April 7.
Over the next three weeks, the hospital will reach its full capacity of 350 patients. The additional beds, the mayor said, will alleviate the overwhelming need at Elmhurst Hospital, which has been called the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City.
“I’m looking forward to the day when this is going to be a place for tennis again,” de Blasio said on March 31. “But in the meantime, I’m inspired by the fact that people are stepping up.”
The mayor noted that before the pandemic began, the city had about 20,000 working hospital beds in major hospitals, including public, private and voluntary facilities. In the coming weeks, the city is aiming to triple that number.
The Javits Center alone will hold thousands of beds. The USNS Comfort starts with 750, and can go up to 1,000 beds. Other hotels, with hundreds of beds each, can be converted into temporary hospitals.
“We’re just going to keep going every single day,” he said, “adding and adding and adding to get to the point where we have what we need.”
As of last Saturday, more than 60,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in the city had been reported. The death toll has surpassed 2,250 people.
The tennis center hospital will be a site where coronavirus patients will be treated, recover and then go home. The mayor said it will provide relief to the doctors, nurses and medical staff at Elmhurst Hospital.
“We all know that for a variety of reasons, Elmhurst has been the place that has borne the brunt,” he said.
When asked whether the U.S. Open, which is scheduled for early September, will take place this year, de Blasio said the timeframe that’s of deepest concern to New York City is April and May.
He noted that the city’s own health commissioner estimated that a return to normalcy would be around September.
Danny Zausner, chief operating officer of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), said August 31 is the first day of the main draw of the U.S. Open. He noted that the USTA will still “plan accordingly,” but that it “seems so trivial” in light of the pandemic.
“We will continue to plan every single day as if the U.S. Open is being hosted, and hopefully we’ll be in a position five months from today to see players actually practicing on the courts and playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium and all the other courts on the site,” Zausner said. “But it’s way too preliminary to be thinking about that right now.”