With COVID-19 continuing to spread, officials in New York City plan to open more than 8,000 new hospital beds over the next two weeks. In a press conference on the afternoon of Monday, March 16, Mayor Bill de Blasio described how the City will convert unused spaces across the five boroughs into medical facilities.

Four existing structures will be transformed into patient treatment centers. On Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, the Coler building—a municipal healthcare facility—will accommodate 350 beds within a week, says de Blasio. Within a similar timeframe, two vacant floors of the North Central Bronx Hospital, also part of the city health system, will offer 120 beds. In the next two weeks, a new, unoccupied nursing home in Brooklyn will add another 600 beds; the Westchester Square Hospital in the Bronx will increase the count by 150 more. “That gives us somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200, 1,300 beds that we can immediately say will be activated,” said de Blasio.

Dr. Michael Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, the municipal health system, also described how cafeterias or parking lots of hospitals across the city could be turned into ICU wards. Doing so would net an additional 7,000 beds, officials estimate. “That will take us to 8,200-8,300,” said de Blasio, “and then we're going to keep going rapidly from there.”

Building additional capacity is one part of the City’s three-pronged approach to combatting the virus, de Blasio said, in addition to discharging patients on an expedited basis and cancelling elective surgeries.

“This will be a race against time to create these facilities, to get them up and running, to find the personnel and the equipment we need,” the Mayor said. “We have no choice but to expand rapidly and be ready for anything.”

As of the morning of Tuesday, March 17, there are 644 confirmed cases in the city, and seven people have died. New York State has 967 confirmed cases—the highest number in the country—and 10 deaths.