(ABC News) – The site of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York City will be converted into a temporary medical facility as the coronavirus pandemic strains the city’s resources, according to the U.S. Tennis Association, which owns the venue.
USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told The Associated Press that an area of indoor courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the New York City borough of Queens will be used for 350 temporary hospital beds starting Tuesday. Meanwhile, kitchens at Louis Armstrong Stadium — the second-largest arena of the Grand Slam tennis tournament — will be used for preparing 25,000 meal packages per day for patients, workers, volunteers and schoolchildren in New York City.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the plans.
The USTA, the national governing body for tennis, originally had said it was going to keep the center open for people to take lessons, practice or play tennis. But then the organization said it was closing the site to the public.
With more than 38,000 diagnosed cases and nearly 1,000 deaths, New York City is the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States. State and city officials are trying to increase hospital capacity in order to handle the health crisis. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said up to 1 million more healthcare workers were needed.
“As governor of New York, I am asking health care professionals across the country: If you don’t have a health care crisis in your community, please come help us in New York now,” he said at a press conference Monday.
The rising death toll from the outbreak in the United States was poised Tuesday to overtake China’s tally of more than 3,300 deaths.
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