Non-ICU coronavirus patients at Elmhurst Hospital to be sent to temporary medical center at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The temporary medical center at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will serve as a relief space for Elmhurst Hospital’s non-ICU coronavirus patients.

Work transforming a part of the 14,000-seat arena, which hosts the US Open every year, into a 350-bed medical center began Tuesday with the first set of coronavirus patients from the Queens hospital expected to be transferred to the facility early next week, the mayor announced.

“It’s going to help take the pressure off of Elmhurst,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said to reporters during an afternoon press conference at the arena. The virus has hit Elmhurst Hospital especially hard with waiting rooms constantly being overfilled, lines of patients waiting to be seen so long they snake into the street and 60 hour wait times for beds marking it as the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 31, there are 40,900 cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with 932 deaths. The borough with the highest number of cases is Queens with 13,576 cases followed by Brooklyn with 10,904. There are 7,625 cases in the Bronx, 6,446 in Manhattan and 2,314 in Staten Island.

Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted that it will take three weeks for contractors SLSCO to build out the medical center at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and for it to be fully staffed with doctors, nurses and other essential staff.  SLCSCO will also build the 1,000-bed temporary hospital at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.

The goal, de Blasio repeated, is to triple the number of beds in city hospitals. Before the virus spread to New York, the city had about 2,300 hospital beds.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will soon add 2,500 beds to the city, the USNS Comfort which docked on Monday currently has 750 beds but has the potential to house 1,000 beds, the Brooklyn Health Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare is adding 650 beds, 340 extra beds are being made at Roosevelt Island’s Coler Specialty Hospital.

The mayor also announced the arrival of new medical supply shipments, including 500 nurses, by Friday, April 3, joining a fleet of 250 ambulances, 135 of which are already in the city.

The mayor added that 270 new paramedics arrived in the city to help the fire department and other EMS services with another 230 on their way. An additional 1,000 nurses will be deployed into the city’s public hospital system “very soon through the contracting they have done,” he said.

“I’ll always tell you good news but that doesn’t mean that the battle is over and doesn’t mean we aren’t going to need more help,” Blasio said.

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