New York’s Central Park to be transformed into hospital as US overtakes China toll
NEW YORK: Emergency field hospitals were readied in New York's Central Park and at the home of the US Open tennis tournament Tuesday on a day when the US death toll from the coronavirus surpassed that of China.
The pandemic has killed some 1,000 New Yorkers and President Donald Trump warned in Washington of "a very, very painful two weeks" to come for the country.
Already the hardest-hit area, America's financial capital is in a race to ramp up hospital capacity before cases peak.
Around a dozen tents, equipped with 68 beds and 10 ventilators, have been put up in Manhattan's iconic park, with COVID-19 patients expected to start arriving later Tuesday.
"You see movies like Contagion and you think it's so far from the truth, it will never happen. So to see it actually happening here is very surreal," 57-year-old passerby Joanne Dunbar told AFP.
Declared coronavirus cases across the US surged to 188,172 on Tuesday, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, with 3,873 deaths.
That is more than the fatalities reported by China.
New York state has seen far more cases — 75,000 — and deaths than any other since announcing its first infection on March 1 and quickly emerging as the epicenter of the US outbreak.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday the city was tripling hospital capacity in a bid to get ready for the peak of the pandemic expected in two to three weeks.
"(We) will require a level of hospital capacity we've never seen… never even conceived of," he told NBC.
Plea to evacuate
Fallout is spreading wider every day across the world's biggest economy.
The captain of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most fearsome assets in the US arsenal, pleaded for large-scale evacuation, saying that the virus was spreading uncontrollably through his crew, currently in the US Pacific territory of Guam.
"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a letter to his superiors, US media reported. Defense Secretary Mark Esper later downplayed the drama, saying that no one was "seriously ill."
But in New York, officials are already in full blown crisis management mode, as they scramble to deal with the influx of sick when hospitals are already overwhelmed and medical supplies strained.
South of Central Park, the Javits Convention Center is now operational with nearly 3,000 beds after it was adapted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
It will take non-COVID-19 patients to ease the burden on hospitals focusing on the virus. – AFP