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FEMA to open 200-bed hospital at Van Cortlandt Park

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Van Cortlandt Park is one of the largest parks in New York City, a center for sports and recreation in the Bronx. But now, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the park is about to become something entirely new: A field hospital.

Councilman Andrew Cohen broke the news Sunday afternoon, announcing the field hospital would house 200 beds across 12 acres in the park, a joint operation between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The Army Corps and FEMA began work on the field hospital Saturday, and is expected to open with the next three weeks.

Unlike some of the other field hospitals opened by the two federal agencies in the city over the past week, a FEMA representative confirmed to The Riverdale Press this field hospital will indeed accept patients who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The Vannie field hospital will join the Javits Center in Hell's Kitchen, a temporary 2,500-bed hospital initially meant only for non-COVID patients, but is now only accepting those who have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Mount Sinai Hospital partnered with controversial Christian organization Samaritan's Purse to open a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park to treat overflow patients.

And the military medical ship USNS Comfort docked at Pier 90 last week, providing an additional 1,000 beds for non-COVID patients.

Cohen told The Press he was not aware of any hospitals working with FEMA and the Army Corps on the Van Cortlandt field hospital. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz speculated on social media the hospital was being opened in conjunction with Montefiore Medical Center in Norwood. Montefiore officials did not return a request for comment on Sunday evening.

"I think it's a sign of how serious and widespread this is going to be," Cohen said, "and how difficult the upcoming weeks are going to be. Van Cortlandt Park is a tremendous resource to this community, and if it can be a resource in helping to turn the tide on this, that's an admirable use."

New York remains the leader in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which just over 122,000 cases. Deaths in the city were down April 4 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. 

"What is the significance of that?" Cuomo asked during a recent daily briefing. "It's too early to tell. The interesting blip, maybe, in the data, or hopeful beginning of a shift in the data, and the number of cases."

Total hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions also were down Saturday, although Cuomo said it's too early to know what the numbers will mean long-term.

"The operational challenge for the health care system is impossible," Cuomo said, "because the system is over capacity, all over the board."

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