Aqueduct Racetrack is on the list of possible additional new hospital sites for New York State, according to N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who discussed the issue at his daily press briefing Friday.
Cuomo said that the state is looking for sites with a 1,000-plus patient capacity in each of the five New York City boroughs, as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Aqueduct is located in South Ozone Park in the borough of Queens.
New York is already building a temporary hospital in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, as well as others at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury, and the Westchester Convention Center, with a goal of opening to patients in mid- to early April.
“We know at this point that any scenario will overwhelm the capacity of our healthcare system and we are continuing to work aggressively to increase our state's hospital capacity and flatten the curve,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our top priority is finding more beds for patients and getting the ventilators we need to ensure our most vulnerable patients are being treated properly, and we are actively scouting new locations for temporary hospital sites. This situation is not easy, but easy times don't forge character–hard times do–and we will get through this together and be better and stronger people for it.”
Along with Aqueduct, the state is looking at temporary hospital sites at CUNY College of Staten Island, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the New York Expo Center.
By mid-afternoon Friday, the statewide total of coronavirus cases stood at 44,635–a number that only includes positive tests, and not those assumed to have it who were unable to be tested. (See Brad Weisbord's letter to the editor.)
The new hospitals would require the approval of the federal government, which Cuomo said he would seek.
“NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for Governor Cuomo's steady leadership during this unprecedented public health crisis, and we stand ready to assist in any way we can,” said NYRA CEO and President Dave O'Rourke. “The governor's ability to quickly marshal all available resources is saving lives and inspiring action both here in New York and across the nation. We welcome the opportunity for Aqueduct Racetrack to serve as a safe haven for those recovering from this virus, recognizing that we all must work together as a community to meet this challenge and emerge stronger for it. NYRA also joins the governor in extending our deepest gratitude to the first responders, medical professionals and volunteers who continue to operate on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.”
It would not be the first time that New York Racing Association tracks have been called upon for help in crises. After Superstorm Sandy hit the New York area in October, 2012, NYRA donated the use of its parking lot to the American Red Cross at Aqueduct to operate a mobile feeding kitchen and relief supplies staging area. In 2001, Belmont Park served as one of the staging areas for emergency vehicles and personnel in the days following 9/11.Less than seven weeks later, on October 27, 2001, Belmont Park was the site of the first major international sporting event post-9/11 in New York when it hosted the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
New York State is currently operating a mobile testing site in the Aqueduct parking lot. First-come first-serve testing is available to those with signed referrals.