The charity Samaritan’s Purse sets up a field hospital to care for COVID-19 patients in Central Park, New York

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New York (AFP) – In New York’s Central Park on Sunday, a field hospital was going up.

Dozens of people worked in a drizzle to erect the facility for an expected influx of COVID-19 patients at the epicentre of the US coronavirus pandemic.

Samaritan’s Purse, a US-based Christian global relief agency, is setting up the hospital on the park’s East Meadow lawn, where workers in face masks unloaded a white tarp and other equipment on the grass. The site is right across from one of the facilities in the Mount Sinai hospital group.

“There’s lots of cases here in New York and a lot of people that need help,” said Elliott Tenpenny, a doctor and team leader for Samaritan’s Purse COVID-19 Response Team.

“The hospitals all over the city are filling up and they need as much help as they can get. That’s why we’re here.”

He said the charity was working with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mount Sinai, with the aim of receiving patients within two days.

Unlike other temporary facilities going up in the New York region, this site will have the equipment and personnel necessary to handle COVID-19 patients. Tenpenny called it a “respiratory focused field hospital” which will have a capacity of 68 patients, and the doctors and nurses to treat them.

Samaritan’s Purse has set up a similar temporary hospital in Cremona, Italy, the country with the highest COVID-19 death toll.

On Sunday Cuomo announced that New York state has more than 59,500 cases and 965 deaths, making it by far the hardest-hit area of the United States. Those figures give it more than 40 percent of the country’s cases and deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University show.

New York medical staff are struggling with long hours and a dire need for hospital-grade masks and other protective gear.

Tenpenny said that although his organization is faith-based, “we provide care to anybody at anytime without regard to who they are, just if they have need.”

The charity has been helping the world’s victims of war, poverty, natural disasters and other crises since 1970.

“These are usually international after disasters but the US is in massive need right now and so here we are setting up to help our own country,” Tenpenny said

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