Plans to convert Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine into field hospital have been canceled

Posted On Fri, April 10, 2020 By

Posted On Fri, April 10, 2020 By In Morningside Heights, Policy

Photo by Kripa Chettiar on Flickr

Update 4/10/20: Plans to convert the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine into an emergency field hospital have been canceled. ABC News reported on Thursday that tensions between the progressive church and the Samaritan’s Purse, known for its anti-LGBTQ and Islamaphobic views, may have halted the project. A spokesperson with the church told ABC the space could either become a hospital with a different agency, a morgue, or nothing if the number of hospitalizations continues to drop.

One of the largest churches in the world will be converted into a field hospital this week. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood said it will have nine climate-controlled medical tents installed in its 600-foot-long nave and underground crypt by the end of the week, the New York Times first reported. The site is expected to house at least 200 patients, who could start arriving as early as this week.

As the number of  COVID-19 cases grows to nearly 70,000 in New York City, officials have sought to create temporary field hospitals to reduce the strain felt by the city’s hospitals. Sites like the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort in Manhattan were both originally designed as overflow facilities, but have since been turned into hospitals for coronavirus patients. It’s unclear yet whether the Cathedral will treat patients with the disease.

The crypt, which runs the length of the massive church, will be used as a storage and preparation area for medical personnel. Staff from Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, located across the street from the church, will work at the field hospital.

Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, the dean of the cathedral, said the church has always been for all people. “In the history and tradition of the Church, and following the example of Jesus, Cathedrals have long served as places of refuge and healing in times of plague and community crisis,” he said in a statement.

“The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is stepping up now, as we always have, to help support our diverse and beloved community and the community of doctors, nurses, and volunteers risking their health and well-being in the service of the people of New York City in our hour of need.”

According to Dean Daniel, Samaritan’s Purse has been involved with the hospital at the church. Last month, the group, which is led by Rev. Franklin Graham, built a pop-up field hospital in Central Park, staffed by personnel from Mount Sinai. The dean told the Times that the church’s collaboration with Graham, who is vocal about his anti-LGBTQ and Islamaphobic views, does not mean the institution supports his beliefs.

“I don’t agree with their position on Muslims and gays and a number of other things, but I am willing to work together with them to save lives,” Danial told the newspaper. “I feel like it is sort of like the steward on the Titanic as it is sinking — now is not the time to count the silverware, you have to get people into lifeboats.”

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