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New York City to open field hospital for first time since spring as Covid-19 cases spike

NBC News logo NBC News 11/23/2020 David K. Li
a group of people standing in front of a building © Provided by NBC News

Spiking cases of coronavirus in at least one New York City borough forced the re-opening of a field hospital not used since the early, dark days of the pandemic, official said Monday.

The temporary facility at Staten Island University Hospital had been operated from early April through the end of June during initial action against the pandemic, authorities said.

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The first patients to enter this re-opened field hospital are expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday. It'll be able to hold up to 108 patients for now and could be expanded to 250 if necessary.

The number new cases discovered on Staten Island between Nov. 14 and this past Thursday ranged from 102 to 165, according to data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

As a point of comparison, back on July Fourth, Labor Day Sept. 7 and Columbus Day Oct. 11, the number of new cases those days were 12, 19 and 14, respectively.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo took his own constituents to task on Monday.

"We control our own destinies and we're not doing as good enough job as we should be," Oddo told NBC News on Monday.

"This is about personal responsibility. This is a borough that likes to talk about personal responsibility in a larger, global, political context. This is about us. This is about our own behavior."

a group of people sitting at a table: Image: (Mary Altaffer / AP file) © Mary Altaffer Image: (Mary Altaffer / AP file)

Dr. Brahim Ardolic, executive director of Staten Island University Hospital, traced this spike to a "break down in social distancing rules and mask wearing" in late October and early November. But he's hopeful Staten Island residents are adjusting their behavior in the wake of this recent case surge.

"I think there is a realization that there is a sense of urgency," Dr. Ardolic said. "The problem is that we went down in cases so dramatically (in early summer) and stayed so low for so long, there was a lull. People lost that natural fear and concern."

The field hospital is actually a new building that had been slated to open this spring as a long-term psychiatric care facility. But when the pandemic struck, it was quickly utilized for Covid-19 care and space was set aside anticipating a late-2020 spike.

Swaths of Staten Island were classified as yellow and orange zones by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

Those designations bring extensive limitations on how late some businesses are allowed to operate and how many people can gather in any one place.

Staten Island, though, is far from the only Empire State county struggling with a resurgence in the virus.

From Nov. 2 to Monday, the number of New York state residents in the hospital for Covid-19 has grown from 1,227 to 2,724, Cuomo said on Monday.

With Thanksgiving coming in three days and Christmas just a month down the calendar, Cuomo pleaded with constituents to love their family members — by staying away from them during the holidays.

He thanked his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo for staying put in Chicago and resisting any thoughts of coming back to New York this week for turkey.

"It's a deeper Thanksgiving, it's a more meaningful Thanksgiving" for families to stay apart, the governor said.

"Mariah loves me so much, she’s not coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with me. That's how much she loves me. We have to get our head there."

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