In the East Meadow of Central Park, a scene unlike anything New Yorkers have witnessed here before is unfolding: a 68-bed field hospital opens today. Under construction since the weekend, it’s yet another all too visible reminder of the war-like mobilizations that the coronavirus COVID-19 disease is necessitating. Just yesterday, the USNS Comfort ship arrived at Pier 90 to handle overflow surgery patients to free up capacity at local hospitals. Places of leisure and business, like the Javits Center and soon the US Open tennis site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, are becoming temporary hospitals.
The new field hospital is a partnership between Mount Sinai Medical Center, located just across Fifth Avenue from the East Meadow between 98th and 100th Streets, and Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief group. Samaritan’s Purse is led by Franklin Graham, and yesterday, Gothamist reported that he is a “notorious anti-LGBTQ and Islamophobic preacher with a track record of using humanitarian missions to proselytize an evangelical agenda.” Gothamist also notes that that Samaritan’s Purse has been recruiting Christian medical staff to work at the field hospital and all the volunteers must follow a statement of faith, which is on the organization’s website that does have language that condemns the “unrighteous to everlasting punishment in hell.”
After the Gothamist report, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman warned Graham that the hospital should treat all patients equally, stating, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should Franklin Graham. It’s unacceptable that a New Yorker infected with COVID-19 could be subjected to discriminatory treatment from an organization whose leader calls us ‘immoral’ and ‘detestable.’” It should be noted however that Franklin Graham told Fox News yesterday “We’re going to give the best health care we can to all New Yorkers.” He also asked partisan politics to be set aside: “This coronavirus is going to kill Republicans, it’s going to kill Democrats, it’s going to kill Independents, and we just need to work together for the better of this nation,” he said.
If you’re wondering whether Graham is connected to the famous televangelist Billy Graham, you would be correct — Franklin is his son.
The temporary hospital will have fourteen tents total for diagnosis and treatment, supply storage, a pharmacy, even a morgue. There will be ten ventilators to start and the hospital will serve patients from Mount Sinai Brooklyn and Queens initially.
Untapped New York photographic correspondent Ryan Lahiff went to document the field hospital yesterday, noting “That’s the local lawn for some many people who live in my neighborhood. During the spring, summer, fall months it’s usually full of families playing ball with their kids or playing fetch with their dogs. I’ve had family over from Australia and we’ve bought a pizza, brought a bottle of wine from home and picnicked in the exact spot they are now setting up the tents. The people setting up the tents were a lot younger than I’d expected and they were all surprisingly high spirits all things considered. They all seemed to have their assigned tasks and were pitching in to help each other. Their spirit was uplifting to say the least.”
Next, see photos of the USNS Comfort arriving to New York City and learn about 12 groundbreaking hospitals in NYC that have closed.