NEW YORK • A portion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre will be transformed into a 350-bed temporary hospital as the coronavirus pandemic strains resources in New York City, which has been dramatically affected by the disease.
Infections in the United States have reached 164,000, with more than 3,100 dead. The state of New York accounts for almost half the country’s cases, and more than 40 per cent of the deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The site of the US Open and the crown jewel of American tennis, the venue has been thrust into the fray amid a medical crisis that has gripped the world and brought professional sports to a sudden and indefinite halt.
Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the US Tennis Association (USTA), which owns the centre, told Reuters that the conversion of an indoor tennis facility on the venue began yesterday.
“We’re here to help – no two ways about it,” he said. “New York is our home, we’re all in this together.”
New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) informed the USTA of its plans on Monday, after previously telling the organisation that the tennis centre was a potential venue for auxiliary medical care.
“The site is likely to be for non-Covid-19 patients, and we will evaluate based on need,” NYCEM spokesman Omar Bourne said.
He added that the city is “actively working to identify spaces that can be used to expand hospital capacity throughout the five boroughs”, but did not elaborate.
News of the Flushing Meadows facility being used comes a day after New York began construction on a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park, as the city grapples to accommodate the number of patients at its medical centres.