Feds eye stopgap hospitals at SBU, SUNY Old Westbury

Campus clinic: The locked-down SUNY College at Old Westbury campus could soon house a temporary emergency hospital to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government will construct four emergency hospitals across Downstate New York, including two on Long Island, in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The Stony Brook University and SUNY College at Old Westbury campuses have been identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as potential sites for temporary hospitals, along with Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and the Westchester County Center – and on Sunday, President Donald Trump announced the National Guard would immediately begin work at the four sites, with Washington footing the bill.

Each of the temporary hospitals will include 250 beds, for a total of 1,000 additional beds across the state. Trump also announced plans for the National Guard to begin construction of eight emergency medical facilities in California, totaling 2,000 additional hospital beds.

The Army Corps of Engineers joined representatives of multiple New York agencies – including Albany’s Office of General Services, the state Dormitory Authority, the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Division of Military and Naval Affairs – to visit and review more than a dozen statewide sites for potential temporary-hospital use.

Andrew Cuomo: National call.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has repeatedly called on the federal government to nationalize the country’s COVID-19 response, applauded the Army Corps of Engineers’ final proposals.

“We know that by all projections, we’re going to have more hospitalizations than we can deal with in our healthcare system,” Cuomo said Sunday. “After meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and hearing their recommendations, we stand ready for the building of temporary hospitals at four facilities in New York State.

While healthcare hubs like SBU are already on a wartime footing, the transition to emergency-medicine hotbed is a little starker for SUNY Old Westbury – though the college, already following Age of Coronavirus campus-lockdown protocols, is ready to step up, according to Vice President of Communications Michael Kinane.

“SUNY Old Westbury will do all it can to fully support the governor’s effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 and to help those who are impacted by this disease,” Kinane said Sunday.

Michael Kinane: Team effort.

While the precise composition and capacities of its temporary, federally funded, National Guard-built hospital are not yet clear – “The exact scale at which our campus will be used is yet to be determined,” Kinane noted – hosting the coronavirus-response facility is in line with SUNY Old Westbury’s overall approach to the pandemic, according to its chief communications officer.

“As it has been for the past several weeks, the goal for each of us must be to ensure the safety of ourselves, our friends and loved ones, and the community at large,” Kinane added.

Cuomo, who said he planned to tour all four of the Army Corps-recommended sites this week, stressed that community-focused efforts were key to the Empire State’s coronavirus strategy.

“This is a public health crisis, but worse than the virus is the fear,” the governor said. “We have a plan and we are doing everything we can to keep the people informed and save lives.”