One Of The World’s Largest Churches Is Becoming A Field Hospital

The makeshift hospital in New York will serve patients as the coronavirus crisis consumes the city.

A view of the exterior at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. | Getty Images
A view of the exterior at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. | Getty Images

A massive cathedral in New York City is being transformed into a temporary hospital as the surging number of coronavirus cases overburdens the health care system in one of the nation’s epicenters of the outbreak.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine will house nine tents to accommodate at least 200 patients, its Dean Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III told the New York Times. The move comes as other congregations across the U.S. have continued to hold in-person services that defy social distancing guidelines and even violate stay-at-home orders in some states.

The Episcopal cathedral is one of the five largest church buildings in the world, according to its website.

“Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic and an overwhelmed health care system, the Cathedral has offered the use of its grounds and the Cathedral building itself to help serve our neighbors’ most pressing needs,” reads a blog post on the cathedral’s website. “The Church stepped up to meet health care needs in the City of New York in the past, and we pledge to continue to step up in the present crisis.”

The cathedral is located next door to the Mount Sinai Hospital in Morningside Heights, and Daniel told The Times that it could be ready to accept patients as soon as next week. Another cathedral representative told The Episcopal News Service that the hospital might not exclusively serve COVID-19 patients, but simply act as overflow space for any patients.

The cathedral is reportedly partnering with evangelical organization Samaritan’s Purse, which has helped set up emergency hospitals in New York’s Central Park and near Milan, Italy, the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths.

Samaritan’s Purse is led by Franklin Graham, who has been criticized for a history of anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim comments. Mayor Bill de Blasio told the press last week that he was troubled by that history and that he has been “assured” the charity overseeing hospitals wouldn’t discriminate against patients. Graham told the Wall Street Journal that “we do not discriminate” against anyone who is sick.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 3,400 people have died from the coronavirus in New York City, which represents about 30% of the nation’s death toll, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. More than 369,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the U.S.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Italy had the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths. Italy has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths as of April 7.