BFF-04 Coronavirus transforms New York as US overtakes China toll

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ZCZC

BFF-04

HEALTH-VIRUS-US

Coronavirus transforms New York as US overtakes China toll

NEW YORK, April 1, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Emergency field hospitals were readied
in New York’s Central Park and at the home of the US Open tennis tournament
Tuesday on a day when the US death toll from the coronavirus surpassed that
of China.

The pandemic has killed some 1,000 New Yorkers and President Donald Trump
warned in Washington of “a very, very painful two weeks” to come for the
country.

Already the hardest-hit area, America’s financial capital is in a race to
ramp up hospital capacity before cases peak.

Around a dozen tents, equipped with 68 beds and 10 ventilators, have been
put up in Manhattan’s iconic park, with COVID-19 patients expected to start
arriving later Tuesday.

“You see movies like ‘Contagion’ and you think it’s so far from the truth,
it will never happen. So to see it actually happening here is very surreal,”
57-year-old passerby Joanne Dunbar told AFP.

Declared coronavirus cases across the US surged to 188,172 on Tuesday,
according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, with 3,873 deaths.

That is more than the fatalities reported by China.

New York state has seen far more cases — 75,000 — and deaths than any
other since announcing its first infection on March 1 and quickly emerging as
the epicenter of the US outbreak.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday the city was tripling hospital capacity
in a bid to get ready for the peak of the pandemic expected in two to three
weeks.

“(We) will require a level of hospital capacity we’ve never seen… never
even conceived of,” he told NBC.

– Plea to evacuate –

Fallout is spreading wider every day across the world’s biggest economy.

The captain of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, one
of the most fearsome assets in the US arsenal, pleaded for large-scale
evacuation, saying that the virus was spreading uncontrollably through his
crew, currently in the US Pacific territory of Guam.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Captain Brett Crozier
wrote in a letter to his superiors, US media reported. Defense Secretary Mark
Esper later downplayed the drama, saying that no one was “seriously ill.”

But in New York, officials are already in full blown crisis management
mode, as they scramble to deal with the influx of sick when hospitals are
already overwhelmed and medical supplies strained.

South of Central Park, the Javits Convention Center is now operational with
nearly 3,000 beds after it was adapted by the Army Corps of Engineers.

It will take non-COVID-19 patients to ease the burden on hospitals focusing
on the virus.

A few blocks away at Pier 90 sits the white, imposing US navy hospital ship
Comfort, with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms — also for non-coronavirus
patients.

A 350-bed facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, where the US Open tennis takes place every
summer, is due to start receiving coronavirus patients next week.

Governor Andrew Cuomo — whose brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, announced
he had the virus Tuesday — warned New Yorkers that the fight to defeat
COVID-19 was going to be a long one.

“Calibrate yourself and your expectations so you’re not disappointed every
day you get up,” he told reporters.

– ‘Sneeze shields’ –

Tim Mosher — nurse team leader at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in
Central Park — said the site’s 70 staff, mostly volunteers, would stay for
as long as needed.

Mosher, more used to operating in disaster zones after spells treating
Ebola victims in Liberia and Cholera patients in Haiti, said it was “sad”
they were in New York.

“But we want it to be hopeful also that it sends a signal to the city that
we care, (and) we’re here,” the 58-year-old told AFP.

New York’s normally teeming streets are almost empty, while masked faces
are a common sight among the few people that can be seen, including cleaning
crews working harder than ever.

At D’Agostino supermarket on First Avenue, manager Larry Grossman has
installed glass partitions to protect cashiers from ill customers and put up
signs about social distancing.

“(Still) we have a lot of people getting sick, a lot of people refusing to
work,” he told AFP.

The Dow suffered its biggest quarterly loss since 1987 and former US
president Barack Obama chastised those who “denied warnings” of a pandemic,
in a thinly-veiled swipe at his successor Trump.

BSS/AFP/GMR/0943 hrs