There are plans to add a COVID-19 treatment bed facility in Ulster County, New York. County Executive Pat Ryan made the announcement during a Facebook Live Town Hall Tuesday with the superintendent of the Kingston City School District.
County Executive Ryan announced plans in an effort to quadruple bed capacity. On Monday, Ryan said that Ulster County had seen a near 50 percent surge in those being hospitalized from COVID-19 over the last several days. And he cautioned that the county was on course to exhaust all available beds and ventilators by the end of this week.
“We want to get up to or over 400 total hospital beds from where we’re at, which is around 125,” Ryan says. “So last week, we announced, with the help and the support of Governor Cuomo and New York state, that we’re going to take the old Benedictine Hospital, the Mary’s Avenue campus of HealthAlliance and add 235 more beds there. So that’ll bring us up to 360, but that’s going to take several weeks to come online.”
Ryan says there is a need for a treatment facility until then.
“So, the last several weeks, my team and I have been scouting different sites for where we might be able to build effectively a, we’re calling it a step-down hospital, a community care facility but, really it’s, it’s sort of like, effectively, it’s sort of like a field hospital,” Ryan says. “We looked at multiple sites, and the one that worked for a whole bunch of reasons is TechCity, which is out, the old IBM campus. It’s co-located right next to where have one of our mobile testing sites. There’s tons of space; there’s good standoff, there’s traffic control.”
However, he says there is needed infrastructure and it will take time to construct the additional capacity in a portion of the former Bank of America building. Ryan says the facility at TechCity is scheduled to be up and running in May. Ulster County’s Department of Public Works with assistance from Central Hudson and the Town of Ulster, will build out the 100,000 square-foot space.
“So in the meantime, for a few-week period, we need a, basically a temporary field hospital site, and the site that made most sense based on all the criteria is actually the Kate Walton Fieldhouse at Kingston High School,” Ryan says. “So that will serve for the next few weeks, if we need it.”
Kingston City School District Superintendent Dr. Paul Padalino:
“I think that this makes sense. It makes sense for everyone who lives in our area,” Padalino says. “And we’re just really excited that we have the complete support of the Board of Education. They’ve been totally supportive and looking forward to being able to partner with the county to make this happen.”
The Facebook live forum allowed for a number of questions. One person wanted to know if locating the Project Resilience Community Care Center at the fieldhouse would imperil workers at Kingston High School. Again, Padalino.
“We’re going to make sure that the building is separated. Anyone who knows that campus knows that the Kate Walton Fieldhouse stands on its own. We’re going to work with the county and their people. We’ll hard-wall barrier the entrances that come in from Kingston High School, so there’ll be no interaction between our maintenance staff, and we also have a significant construction project going on there, and our construction staff, construction contractors and the Kate Walton Fieldhouse,” says Padalino. “So that was one of the reasons it was also a pretty unique spot for this because we are disconnected from the high school proper, so we can easily shut that off and make sure that it’s safe for the people who are working in the building between now and the 29th.”
Located between the HealthAlliance’s Broadway and Mary’s Avenue campuses, the facility will be staffed by Nuvance Health in partnership with HealthAlliance. If and when school resumes session on campus, the care center will shift exclusively to TechCity, and the Kate Walton Fieldhouse will be put back into use for students' athletic needs after a complete cleaning and decontamination.