KEY POINTS

  • New York City is receiving huge support from Christians in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Samaritan's Purse has set up a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park
  • New York reported 253 more deaths on Monday

Nothing fancy. It's just another huge field hospital. Spartan and antiseptic and well-equipped for its medical mission.

But this one's in Central Park and will treat New Yorkers sick from COVID-19 instead of soldiers wounded in battle. It's an important back-up for a state hospital system under siege and about to be overrun by a tsunami of coronavirus patients.

The "soldiers" that set-up this hospital are evangelical Christians. They've done this before in far-flung war zones such as Iraq and can't believe they're doing this in New York City, of all places. Or in the United States, for that matter.

These volunteers, who have been deployed overseas for missions such as this, said they can’t believe the city’s war on COVID-19 has come to this. The evangelicals said they've had the same mission in places such as war-torn Iraq during the Battle of Mosul, and in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Ebola virus disease epidemic. They recently erected a similar field hospital in Cremona in Italy, which remains the epicenter of COVID-19’s spread in Europe.

“The fact we are in Central Park of all places setting up -- typically, we’re doing this in a disaster zone: earthquake, tornado, a war,” said nurse Kristen Dirkas of Texas.

"New York City is beautiful. It’s hard to see it in a situation like this."

Brittany Akinscola, an intensive-care-unit nurse also from Texas, also told The New York Post, “We’ve never been stateside."

Nurses Dirkas and Akinscola will now spend the next few weeks tending to patients at the Army field hospital standing at the corner of Central Park's 97th Street Transverse and Fifth Avenue.

The field hospital was built by the evangelical Christian group Samaritan’s Purse founded by Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son). It will tend to patients from the Mount Sinai Health System. The field hospital will also have its own pop-up morgue, a necessity for an infectious disease notorious for killing up to 3% of its victims.

“We’re triage. Just like any hospital,” said a Samaritan’s Purse employee.

Coronavirus COVID-19 temporary hospital - Central Park, New York A temporary hospital is built in Central Park on the East Meadow lawn on March 30, 2020 in New York City. The facility is a partnership between Mt. Sinai Hospital and Christian humanitarian aid organization Samaritan's Purse, equipped with 68 beds to treat COVID-19 patients. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

The field hospital at Central Park consists of 14 tents, 68 patient beds and 10 ventilators. It also has X-ray equipment and a pharmacy. The hospital will begin receiving patients Tuesday.

“This is honestly the most improbable place we’ve ever been,” said Dr. Elliot Tenpenny, who leads a team of 70 healthcare workers at the site. “I never would have guessed we’d come to New York City with something like this. But New York never thought it would be dealing with a pandemic, either.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday afternoon said there were 253 deaths in his hard-hit state since Sunday. He said there are currently 66,496 confirmed cases in New York and 1,218 deaths. Nearly 10,000 people are hospitalized.

New York is the most heavily hit state while New York City is the most heavily hit U.S. city. Both the state and city are scrambling to cope with a massive surge in patients and deaths due to the coronavirus. Cuomo expects the outbreak to peak in mid-April.