Gov. Andrew Cuomo eyes reactivating Javits Center hospital for COVID-19 surge

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New York is preparing to reactivate the Javits Center as an emergency COVID-19 hospital should another surge of the pandemic overwhelm local medical facilities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said.

Javits was converted into a makeshift hospital in the spring and President Trump sent the USNS Comfort medical ship to New York to help address the initial COVID outbreak that hammered New York.

But widespread criticism ensued that both facilities were underutilized. For example, nursing home residents recovering from COVID were sent back to virus-ravaged nursing facilities instead of being routed to the Javits or the Comfort.

Javits treated slightly more than 1,000 patients; Comfort handled 182.

A Cuomo aide and the head of Northwell Health — which helped operate Javits — confirmed that plans to reuse the convention center are being put in place out of an abundance of caution, or a worst case scenario.

“New York state for weeks has been undertaking preparations to have emergency hospital facilities to be ready for potential surge in cases, including sites such as the Javits where much of the infrastructure is still in place and could be mobilized quickly if the increase in hospitalizations is worse than expected,” said Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi.

He added, “We urge New Yorkers to continue to be SMART so we can avoid a surge that overwhelms our hospital system and these facilities do not have to be activated.”

The governor and New York officials are “laser focused” on preserving or expanding hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases increase, Azzopardi said.

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling said he doesn’t believe reactivating Javits will be necessary, but said a plan will be in place if needed.

“There are no plans to open Javits right now. But if we do need to, the pre-planning is done,” Dowling said.

“Right now I think the likelihood of reopening is minimal. We want to be ready if something drastic occurs.”

The Army helped build and operate the Javits hospital with Northwell’s medical staff during the spring.

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