Help at Hand

A Navy hospital ship arrives, a field hospital opens in Central Park and Cuomo asks for more health care workers to come to New York

31 Mar 2020 | 09:27

The coronavirus pandemic has brought New York City hospitals to the brink of their capacity, forcing the government to find and create new facilities to treat patients.

On Monday, a Navy hospital ship arrived in New York Harbor and will provide 1,000 needed beds. Aboard the USNS Comfort, which is docked at Pier 90 off West 50th Street in Manhattan, there are 12 operating rooms and a medical laboratory. More than 1,000 Navy accompanied the ship to provide their services.

The ship will house patients who are not suffering from coronavirus, in order to free up hospital beds to those who are. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that about 750 of the ship’s beds would be put to use immediately.

“This is like adding another hospital here in New York City,” said de Blasio. “It’s such a boost to see the military arrive to help us out.”

Chris Cuomo Tests Positive

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that an additional 332 people had died in New York State as of Tuesday morning, bringing the death toll to 1,550. In New York City, 900 people have died.

During his press briefing Tuesday, the governor said his brother, Chris Cuomo, an anchor at CNN, tested positive for the virus.

"He's a sweet, beautiful person and he's my best friend," said Gov. Cuomo. He added that his brother was going to be fine.

The governor said it was a reminder that people need to be smart and distance themselves from more vulnerable people. In his case, he said he was worried about his own mother’s exposure.

Demand for Medical Services

As confirmed cases in the state surpassed 75,000, the governor repeated his request for health care workers from across the country to come to New York and provide their services.

The city has had to become creative elsewhere in order to meet the demand for medical services, which has included the transformation of the Javits Convention Center into a 1,000-bed hospital with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers. Additionally, more than a dozen white tents were constructed over the weekend in Central Park by the disaster relief organization Samaritan's Purse as part of a field hospital on the lawn across from Mount Sinai Hospital near Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.

The field hospital, which opened Tuesday, has 68 beds, 10 Intensive Care Unit beds, as well as X-ray equipment and a pharmacy. A makeshift morgue will also be a part of the facility.

A Surge in Wills and Trusts Inquiries

The surging death numbers have undoubtedly taken a toll on the psyche of New Yorkers. The anxiety has brought new business to Suzanne Thau, a trust and estates attorney.

“We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from people concerned about their own mortality,” said Thau, who works at a boutique firm with 52 lawyers. “Because it is so uncertain, it’s making people think about their mortality more than they normally would.”

Thau’s firm has seen a surge in questions from clients asking for guidance as they navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. Mostly, she’s seen an urgency in clients’ desire to have theirs wills and trusts settled that is not typical in other times.

“I will work with people over the course of a year sometimes because it's just a macabre topic that a lot of people don't really want to talk about,” said Thau. “I will start planning with people and then I won't hear from them for six months, I'll send them drafts, I will hear from them for another six months. And yeah, it's because we’re New Yorkers: we're super busy and people have careers, kids and a million demands on their time. But it's also that you kind of mentally want to put it on the back burner, because who really wants to think about dying right?”

Thau is used to asking the uncomfortable questions. In her job, she often has to game out morbid scenarios. What happens if you and your kids all die in a plane crash together? Where would your money go then? Planning for the improbable is an everyday reality.

“I’m accustomed to seeing these things,” said Thau. “It kind of gives you a different perspective on the world.”

But even for her, the pandemic has been an unusual and unprecedented experience, and she’s trying to be a calming presence for her clients.

“We don’t want to scare anyone. We don’t want to add any type of panic feeling. We want to make this easier for people right now because there’s enough stress,” said Thau. “We’re just telling people to enjoy their time with their loved ones, which is something this career kind of forces you to recognize.”

"He's a sweet, beautiful person and he's my best friend." Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying his brother Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor, had tested positive for the virus.