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COVID In New York: Staten Island Reopens Coronavirus Field Hospital Not Used Since Peak Of Pandemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- COVID-19 cases are on the rise across New York, and hospitalizations are soaring.

Now, an emergency field hospital on Staten Island not used since the peak of the pandemic is reopening.

The temporary hospital was used from April to June, and now it's back in service. The first patients were expected to arrive Tuesday.

As CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported, a steady stream of cars drove up to the testing tents at Staten Island University Hospital.

The borough's infection rate has tripled in the last three weeks.

"I was exposed, so that was the reason I made the appointment online, and it was easy, very organized," Staten Island resident Sonia Schmitt told Duddridge.


Next door, a temporary emergency coronavirus treatment center reopened Tuesday.

It cared for 200 people back in the spring when hospital wards were overflowing with seriously ill COVID patients. Now, it's ready again with 108 beds available.

"The majority of the patients are going to be people that were treated for COVID, have gotten past that phase where they're really critically ill but still need care," Staten Island University Hospital Executive Director Brahim Ardolic said.

A free testing site was also set up in the parking lot of a closed movie theater.

MORE: COVID In NYC: Staten Island Getting Emergency Coronavirus Treatment Facility As More Restrictions Loom

The extra preparation comes as the northern part of the borough enters the yellow zone. The southern area of the island is now considered an orange zone, which means schools, indoor dining, salons and gyms have to close.

"The south side of Staten Island -- Tottenville -- it's pretty hectic," one resident said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked Tuesday how the city is helping the hospitals.

"We'll be talking to the hospitals about their PPE supply, about staffing. Whatever it is they need, we'll work with the state as well to make sure Staten Islanders are safe," he said.

With Thanksgiving just two days away and Christmas in a month, health officials are pleading with people not to visit their family members.

"We know gatherings in groups, even in small groups, is causing the virus to spread," New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said. "Here's one way to think about it. You bring everyone you've been around with you to your holiday celebration."

"I think that some people don't care, that's the problem," another resident added.

Health officials at Staten Island University Hospital said they have another site with no COVID patients, so people with other medical issues can feel safe coming in and not put off important procedures.

The New York City Sheriff said for those who travel to the area, if you do not have those two negative tests before and after arriving you must quarantine for two weeks or you face a $1,000 fine for each day of violating it. He said some arrests have been made.


The Situation Is Just As Bad On Long Island

Before handing out turkeys in Wyandanch, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the test positivity rate is 3.24% and the number of hospitalizations on Long Island is the highest in the state.

"Long Island, 149% increase in three weeks," Cuomo said.

Watch Lisa Rozner's report --

Great Neck and Massapequa Park in Nassau County are now yellow zones, in addition to Hampton Bays and Riverhead in Suffolk County.

MORECOVID On Long Island: Riverhead, Hamptons Bays Near Micro-Cluster Designation

The announcement came as the governor backtracked on potential plans to have Thanksgiving with two of his daughters and his 89-year-old mom, who he claimed underestimated the severity of the situation, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

"She's thinking, how many Thanksgivings do I get, right? You start to think that way, but it's hard. But sometimes hard is smart," Cuomo said.

Demand For Testing Higher Than Ever As Numbers Worsen Throughout Tri-State Area

The numbers are bad and getting worse, and because of that, the demand for testing has never been higher.

City Winery, a popular Meatpacking District venue, launched a pilot program two nights a week requiring customers to pre-pay for a rapid COVID test before being seated.

The $50 test comes with a drink while you wait for results.

"I think it's going to be the way of the future," Chelsea resident Armand Maldonado told CBS2's Nick Caloway.

RELATED STORY: New York City, New Jersey Working On Ways To Shorten COVID-19 Testing Lines

A long line outside Tuesday night indicated many customers are willing to shell out cash for some peace of mind.

"It's a big concern for people to eat indoors, so it definitely helps if everybody is tested and negative," Chelsea resident Alexia Furmanski said.

"Everybody there is OK, then you feel better. Nothing is 100%, but you feel better," Maldonado said.

RELATED STORY: New Jersey Health Commissioner Persichilli Says Highest COVID Positivity Rate Of Late Is In 19-49 Age Group

One young customer said he was just there for the COVID test ahead of Thanksgiving because the lines are shorter

"Like, my mom told me it took, like, two hours to take a test, but here, it takes, like, 15 minutes, so we're like, 'Oh, I'm coming here. Sign me up,'" Henry said.

Health officials are hoping people who insist on traveling for Thanksgiving this week will get tested before and after the holiday.

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