Central Park hospital to close as New York COVID-19 cases fall

New York (AFP) –


An emergency field hospital erected in Central Park to treat COVID-19 patients is to close, the group running it announced Saturday, as coronavirus cases continue to decline in New York.

Some dozen tents, with ventilators, went up on a lawn opposite Mount Sinai Hospital at the end of March as the Big Apple boosted hospital capacity for the outbreak's peak.

Samaritan's Purse, a US-based Christian global relief agency, said the temporary hospital had treated 191 people infected with coronavirus and would stop admitting new patients from Monday.

It will take approximately two weeks to treat the last patients before the tents are decontaminated and taken down, it added in a statement sent to AFP.

"This marks a significant turning point in the coronavirus outbreak in New York because it means the case numbers are declining to the point that the local healthcare system will be able to meet the needs," the charity said.

The field hospital proved controversial, with LGBT groups pointing out that staff and volunteers are required to sign a "statement of faith" stressing that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Saturday's announcement comes after the US military hospital ship USNS Comfort sailed out of New York on Thursday.

The navy vessel and Central Park hospital were part of a massive operation to double the number of hospital beds in New York state to 110,000.

That included converting the Javits Convention Center and the home of the US Open tennis tournament into emergency field hospitals.

But hospital admissions came in much lower than the worst-case projections because of the city's weeks-long shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said.

Javits is due to close its temporary hospital next week.

Cuomo announced Saturday that 299 New Yorkers had succumbed to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, marginally up from the 289 recorded the day before.

He added that hospitalizations and intubations continued to fall.

Cuomo is expected to this week extend a stay-at-home past May 15 for the state's badly affected areas.

The illness has killed almost 19,000 people across New York state, in one of the world's worst outbreaks.