You ask New York officials and they contend the city is home to the best hospitals in the world.

Think Ebola. The public hospital system, specifically Bellevue Hospital Center, nursed a patient back to health in 2014.

But COVID-19 could become much more widespread. And officials now are preparing for that.

"They'll take a parking lot and put up a tent and turn into an ICU, they will turn a cafeteria into an ICU," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at City Hall on Thursday. "I mean, this is again, we're getting into a situation where the only analogy is war, in a wartime dynamic, you turn all sorts of facilities into something else. You mobilize people, you change their roles, you do whatever it takes."

Sources tell NY1 officials are planning for that now. They declined to name specific locations that could be used as makeshift or temporary hospitals. We're told they are prepared to increase capacity. On Friday, a city council member tweeted a photo of a tent already set up outside Bellevue Hospital:

It's a fact Governor Cuomo echoed this week.

"We have no surge hospital capacity here," Cuomo said on CNN Wednesday night. "We may very well, we're looking in New York at secondary structures that we can start to prepare for temporary hospital situations. I mean this is a massive governmental mobilization that you need a real government to handle."

We know there are about 20,000 hospital beds across the five boroughs - in both public and private hospitals. Those hospitals have 5,000 respirators.


Right now, officials say about 20 percent of COVID-19 patients will need healthcare services. Of those, the head of the city's public hospital system expects 5 percent will need intensive services such as a breathing tube and a ventilator.

Of course there are already patients in hospitals. State and city officials say they will cancel elective surgeries if need be. Cuomo said that number can be anywhere between 25 to 35 percent of hospital capacity.

NY1 reached out to all of the major hospital systems in the city and asked how many beds were full now. A spokesperson for Montefiore Health System said its hospitals range from 68 percent occupied to 106 percent - specifically at the Jack D. Weiler Hospital in the Bronx. A spokesperson for NYU Langone Health told NY1 this time of year they generally are 85 to 90 percent occupied.

Officials at the city's public hospital system tell NY1 they plan to have private and public hospital systems serve COVID-19 patients. Unlike Ebola, it will be a coordinated effort across the entire healthcare system.