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Chilling sight: COVID morgue outside Village healthcare center

Updated April 4, 4:15 p.m.: Village activist Sharon Woolums snapped these photos outside of Lenox Health Greenwich Village, the stand-alone emergency department and comprehensive-care center at Seventh Ave. and 12th St.

“Saw my first temporary morgue today,” she said. “I cried.”

There was no doubt in her mind as to its purpose.

“It looks like the others I’ve seen and it was refrigerated and had the tent on the end,” she said.

Refrigerated trailers, like this one outside L.H.G.V. on W. 12th St., are serving as temporary morgues during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

The trailers and tents have become a chilling sight outside New York City hospitals as the coronavirus onslaught is reportedly expected to peak in the next one to three weeks.

L.H.G.V., which is a part of Northwell Health, stands on part of the former campus of St. Vincent’s Hospital, the city’s last Catholic hospital, which closed in 2010. St. Vincent’s played a pivotal role during another deadly viral plague, the 1980s AIDS epidemic.

Barbara Osborn, Northwell Health vice president of public relations, gave a statement to The Village Sun about the morgue’s presence and the role the Village facility is playing in combating coronavirus — including the addition of inpatient beds for the first time.

“We are working closely with the City of New York and the State of New York to navigate the COVID-19 crisis,” she said. “We are actively preparing for a surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations. As part of these preparations, we are working with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York (OCME) and the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to expand required capacity at Lenox Health Greenwich Village (LHGV).

“The trailer parked along 7th Avenue will provide temporary morgue space. OCME has offered refrigerated truck trailers to all NYC hospitals and these trailers are now located at most hospitals across New York City, not just at LHGV, as we collectively tackle the COVID-19 health crisis.

“We have prepared 31 hospital beds in Lenox Health Greenwich Village to assist other hospitals as needed during this COVID-19 crisis.  This particular unit will not be for critically ill patients.

“Northwell Health hospitals have plans in place to handle a surge in patient volume and can increase our patient capacity by 60 percent if needed. We are confident in our ability to meet this challenge.”

A novelty in Manhattan, L.H.G.V. was designed as a stand-alone E.D., meaning without hospital beds attached to it. Patients needing higher-level care and / or inpatient treatment are typically transported from there to other area hospitals. But, as noted above, beds have now been added to the Village facility as the pandemic is threatening to overwhelm the city’s hospital system.

Speaking to Community Board 2 last month, Dr. Elan “Lonny” Levy, an emergency doctor, said Northwell was well prepared for an expected surge of coronavirus patients.

Levy said the Northwell Health system — New York’s largest — had been identifying possible overflow sites for treating the seriously and critically ill.

“Even in Greenwich Village, we’re looking at certain places that may be used for overflow,” he explained. “We’re very well prepared for this. We’re really well positioned to take care of this.

“We’ve been running mock drills, surge planning, staffing contingency plans to fill gaps if staff get sick.”

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