In New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, hospitals are running out of room for patients, so health officials are turning to alternatives like the USNS Comfort and temporary hospitals in a convention center and Central Park. Plans are now underway to construct another temporary hospital in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, seat of the Diocese of New York and the largest (by some measurements) Anglican cathedral in the world.
The details should be finalized in a few days, but the tentative plan is to set up about 400 hospital beds this week in the nave of the cathedral on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Whether the cathedral will handle COVID-19 cases has not yet been decided, but it should be accepting patients within 10 days, according to Lisa Schubert, the cathedral’s vice president of programming and external relations.
“Everything is happening in real time,” Schubert told Episcopal News Service. “What we knew a week ago is very different from what we know now.”
The cathedral is partnering with the Mount Sinai hospital network and Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian relief organization that has set up temporary hospital units in Central Park.
“Use of this sacred space could lessen pressure on New York City’s overburdened health care system, allowing hospitals to devote more care to COVID-19 patients,” the cathedral’s staff said in a statement.
“In the history and tradition of the church, and following the example of Jesus, cathedrals have long served as places of refuge and healing in times of plague and community crisis,” the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, dean of the cathedral, said in the statement. “The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is stepping up now, as we always have, to help support our diverse and beloved community and the community of doctors, nurses and volunteers risking their health and well-being in the service of the people of New York City in our hour of need.”
As of the morning of April 6, the virus had killed at least 2,475 people in New York City, and the death toll will soon exceed that of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the city that killed about 2,700.