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REUTERS/Stefan Jeremiah
People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while wearing protective gear, outside Elmhurst Hospital Center on March 25.

The city is actively working to triple the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients by May, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

Before the coronavirus spread to New York, city public and private hospitals had a combined 20,000 beds. But as the number of New Yorkers infected with the novel coronavirus rapidly increases, the pressure to speed up hospital expansions grows as well.

As of 5 p.m. on March 26, the city reported 23,112 positive cases of the virus. The borough with the largest number of cases is still Queens, with 7,362 positive cases as of late Thursday. Brooklyn comes in a close second with 6,095, the Bronx third with 4,243 cases, followed by Manhattan with 4,046 and Staten Island with 1,330. At least 365 people have died in the city as a result of the virus and there are no updates on the number of New Yorkers hospitalized.

“I’m not going to look you in the eye and guarantee you that we can get there because we have so many challenges. The bed is only one part of the challenge. Location is only one part of the challenge,” de Blasio said during his daily press briefing Thursday on the state of the novel coronavirus in the city.

The city expects to see the number of fully equipped hospital beds jump to 34,000 within the next few weeks given expansion of bed space in existing hospitals, revived hospitals like Colver and the transformation of non-medical facilities like the Javits Center into temporary hospitals.

As city medical personnel worry over the lack of supplies in the city, Mayor de Blasio assured doctors, nurses and other medical personnel that the city “will work every day” to provide them with enough equipment to handle the expected influx of coronavirus patients and spoke directly to the situation at Elmhurst Hospital, the “epicenter of the epicenter.” In one day, 13 people died as a result of contracting the virus.

The mayor said that 40 ventilators were on their way to Elmhurst along with 56 additional staff members. Another 2,500 ventilators are on their way to city, about a sixth of the number of ventilators the city needs, the mayor said.

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