In an as-told-to essay for Vox, an anonymous 70-year-old male coronavirus patient describes his stay at the Javits Center in New York City, a convention hall that the military transformed into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients in less than a week.
Without the coronavirus around, the hall would have been hosting the New York Auto Show. Instead, it’s a makeshift COVID ward.
And while the words “field hospital” don’t conjure up thoughts of a cozy night at the Ritz-Carlton, the man’s account doesn’t make it sound like a bad place to be — especially considering that we’re living through a devastating pandemic right now.
“I’d been sick for more than two weeks, and had known that I was positive for Covid-19 for several days, after getting the results of a test I took at my local, walk-in urgent care. At home, I’d spent most of my time lying in bed, with frustrating body aches, a fever, and an unrelenting loss of appetite.”
He quickly was put on supplemental oxygen, as well as a common antibiotic and hydroxychloroquine — the much discussed anti-malaria drug lauded by president Donald Trump.
His initial worries about being sent to a field hospital, rather than an actual hospital, were short-lived.
“But after being settled in at the Javits Center, my apprehension eased quickly. My improvised, tent-like cubicle was comfortable, and my doctors and nurses were caring and watchful. And, in a strange way, seeing that other New Yorkers were being treated in a hospital erected seemingly overnight gave me hope that Covid patients were being well-taken care of.”
His room — they reportedly come standard with a potted plant — was a lot cozier than he expected.
“In a way, my cubicle felt like a hospital room. But when you lie down on your back, you remember that you are — in fact — in a convention center, staring up to sky-high ceilings of steel.”
While he may have seen plenty of other New Yorkers around, the reality is that many hospital beds remain empty at the Javits Center field hospital.
At first, the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort — a 1,000 bed Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort that started taking patients earlier this month — were meant to house excess hospital patients without the coronavirus. Officials quickly changed their minds however, and started sending COVID-19 patients to both.
Both the ship and the convention hall were meant to serve as “relief valves” for a metropolis in crisis. Instead, as the Washington Post reported last week, both the ship and hall “remain mostly empty.” According to Politico, as of April 7, there were only 110 patients in both the ship and the convention hall. It’s unclear what that number is today.
Thanks to the help of over 1,000 staff members, including officers from the National Guard, the conventional hall now has its own pharmacy, a concession stand, and nursing station — all built from scratch.
In a crisis, things could look a lot worse.
“You know, I’d say it’s better not to get [COVID] in the first place, and I understand why someone would be anxious about coming here,” the man wrote in his essay for Vox. “But when I looked around, everything seemed to be in order. And I think they all did a fine job.”
More on the pandemic: Scientists: Some Social Distancing May Need to Last Until 2022