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Emergency field hospital erected in the middle of New York's Central Park to treat COVID-19 patients

Inside the Army's coronavirus field hospital

As New Yorkers wake up to the start of another week painfully altered by the presence of coronavirus, there are a number of new images from around the city that serve as reminders of the unprecedented crisis.

There is the sight of the USNS Comfort finally docked at Pier 88, which with its 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms, is likely to bring many just that — comfort. On the other side of the spectrum, however, there is an emergency field hospital that has just been erected for COVID-19 patients in the middle of Central Park.

It's an image seemingly straight out of a disaster movie: rows of white hospital tents lining Central Park's iconic East Meadow. A stretch of grass normally reserved for picnicking families and urban sunbathers transformed into a respiratory care unit with 68 regular and 10 ICU beds, specially equipped for the pandemic at hand.

Virus Outbreak New York
A Samaritan's Purse crew works on building a 68 bed emergency field hospital in New York's Central Park, on March 29, 2020.  AP

Field hospitals are most often utilized by the military in times of war. As Army chief of staff General James McConville, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told medics at the Javits Center on Sunday, that's exactly what this is.

"You're in a war against an invisible threat," he said, as the Army Corps of Engineers worked to turn New York City's largest convention center into a field hospital, as well.

So, on Sunday, the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse – in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and intergovernmental agencies – rallied volunteers from local New York City churches and constructed an emergency field hospital across from Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital in the rain.

Virus Outbreak New York
A Samaritan's Purse crew works on building an emergency field hospital equipped with a respiratory unit in New York's Central Park across from the Mount Sinai Hospital on Sunday, March 29, 2020. AP

"People are dying from the coronavirus, hospitals are out of beds, and the medical staff are overwhelmed," Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse, is quoted as saying on the group's website. "We are deploying our Emergency Field Hospital to New York to help carry this burden. This is what Samaritan's Purse does — we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesus' Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus."

As New York remains the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in America, these sorts of supplemental medical facilities will only become more crucial — as will the volunteer medical personnel who will run them. 

The field hospital in Central Park is expected to open on Tuesday.

US-HEALTH-VIRUS
A woman jogs by Central Park as workers set up a field hospital in front of Mount Sinai West Hospital on March 29, 2020 in New York City.   Getty
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