Queens Tennis Center readied as overflow hospital, doctors told to assume every patient has COVID-19

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FLUSHING MEADOWS, Queens — The list of places intended for sporting events, entertainment, and other everyday activities, that are instead being used as temporary hospitals just got longer.

On Tuesday, work began to convert the indoor tennis center at the Billie Jean King U.S. Open facility into a 350-bed temporary hospital. It joins a group of nine locations in or near New York City being converted into temporary hospitals.

All but one of the temporary facilities are intended to handle non-coronavirus patients. However, doctors are fast learning that there may be no such thing.

“That was one of the initial most surprising things for us,” said Dr. Eric Wei, NYC Health + Hospitals’ chief quality officer. “People who got hit by cars or were beat up,” Dr. Wei continued, “had pneumonia that’s consistent for COVID-19.”

It’s why the city is now instructing its medical personnel to assume that all patients have coronavirus.

The temporary facilities are part of a constellation of hospitals in the city and its suburbs where patients can be
moved and treated, depending on their condition.

More than 170 hospitals and temporary hospitals are part of the network, and on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised that a central command center would be operational by Tuesday to coordinate them all.

PIX11 News asked if the governor had kept his promise.

“It is up and running,” said Deanne Criswell, the city’s emergency management commissioner at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s located at the Javits Center.”

Criswell added that, for now, the command center is only coordinating between two locations, the U.S.N.S. Comfort hospital ship, and the temporary hospital at the Jacob Javits Center.

The full center is not expected to be fully operational until next week.

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