Just as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nearly completed building temporary hospitals in Stony Brook and Old Westbury, New York State officials citing a decline in coronavirus cases are mothballing the facilties.
A state official confirmed Wednesday that the hospitals built at Stony Brook University and SUNY College at Old Westbury will not be used, but will remain standing in case the number of infections goes up or there’s another wave of the virus in the coming months.
“We don’t know how this is going to play out,” Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters during a news confernce Friday. “If you have hospital beds that never gets used, I don’t think that’s a problem because you had the ability to be able to take care of the people. I think at the end of the day it’s a relatively small cost to be able to have the capability to keep people alive.”
LI’s two temporary hospitals are two of 30 that the Army Corps is building nationwide to prevent regional healthcare systems from being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. The two on the Island are not the only ones that have been paused after infections fell in other cities.
Since social-distancing mandates appear to have resulted in coronavirus cases hitting a plateau and begin to decline on LI and the New York Metro area, the nearly two dozen hospitals on the Island are not seeing as critical a need for beds to treat COVID-19 patients, the state official said. The fact that hospitals statewide had increased their bed capacity by at least 50 percent helped as wel. The state was bracing for the projections that it would need up to 140,000 hospital beds, nearly triple what it normally has.
As a result, the state is not purchasing supplies and equipment or securing staff for these sites, but the temporary hospitals will remain ready to be operationalized should they need to be activated, the state official added.
The development came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo told President Donald Trump on Tuesday that the USS Comfort, a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship docked in New York Harbor, was no longer needed and could sail to a new port that needs more help with the crisis than the Empire State currently does. But the state will continue to rely on the temporary federally built hospital at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan to relieve the burden on existing hospitals.
Officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties had been urging state and federal authorities to allow the two temporary hospitals to be authorized to take coronavirus patients after they were initially poised to only take non-COVID-19 cases.
The Stony Brook site has 1,028 beds, 270 of which were set aside for COVID-19 patients while the Old Westbury site has 1,024 beds, with 920 dedicated coronavirus beds, the Army Corps said.
A spokesman for the Army Corps said both hospitals were expected to be completed this week. As of Wednesday, the agency’s website listed the Stony Brook site as 96 percent completed and the Old Westbury site as 82 percent completed.
The Army Corp. had contracted Turner Construction Company to build the 255,767-square-foot temporary hospital at Stony Brook University, the agency said. The Army Corp. contracted AECOM Technical Services, Inc. to build the 207,000-square-foot temporary hospital at SUNY COllege at Old Westbury.
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