New York City’s infection rates have gone back up again, though the death toll is still lagging well behind what we saw in the spring. Still, the Governor felt compelled to do something about the current situation on Staten Island. The solution he’s come up with is the same one that he used when the pandemic first broke out. He’s ordering a field hospital originally set up to handle an overflow of patients to be reopened. That’s raising some immediate questions among people with long enough memories to recall what happened the last time we did this. (NY Post)

With the coronavirus spiking on Staten Island, the state will reopen an emergency COVID-19 field hospital to help overburdened medical facilities there as the southern part of the borough was designated an “orange zone,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

“Staten Island is a problem. The number of hospitalizations in Staten Island have gone, over the last three weeks, they basically tripled,” Cuomo said during a press briefing at his Midtown office.

Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity — well, that’s what we have to do on Staten Island.”

When that field hospital was used in the spring when New York City was definitely at or above hospital capacity, the facility treated a grand total of 200 people over the entire course of the event. Staten Island currently has a grand total of 91 patients being treated.

I’m all in favor of making sure we have a sufficient number of beds to treat everyone who requires hospitalization. But at the same time, we went a bit overboard in the spring. Not only was the Staten Island field hospital underutilized, but others around the city were as well. Do you remember when President Trump sent a military hospital ship to New York Harbor because they were worried about being overrun with ICU patients? They wound up treating a grand total of 20 patients on the USNS Comfort before the crisis had largely passed and it was no longer needed.

This is part of the legacy that has left people distrustful of some of these plans. Elected officials were ringing alarm bells far and wide. Emergency hospitals were set up at numerous locations in the city and some of them certainly saw decent usage rates and very likely saved some lives. But others were barely used at all before being dismantled.

As I mentioned at the top, while the number of confirmed cases is clearly spiking again, our medical professionals have gotten a lot better at dealing with this disease. They have new tools and treatment plans at their disposal, with more on the way soon. Fewer people are dying, thankfully, and there are also lower numbers of patients who fall so severely ill that they need an ICU bed and a respirator. I just hope that the Governor and his team have taken all of these factors into account. If this order for more field hospitals is truly needed, then so be it. But if we’re back to a situation where officials are doing things just for the sake of looking like they’re doing something then we still have a management problem.