New York State will build a 1,000-bed emergency hospital at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens to try to help the region accommodate the expected surge of COVID-19 patients in the weeks to come.
This construction was announced March 28th by New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo. The remainder of the winter and spring meets at Aqueduct have been canceled. Racing was originally scheduled to conclude at the Ozone Park track on April 19th.
The New York Racing Association will now focus efforts on preparing for live racing at Belmont Park.
“NYRA is continuing to strategize the safest options for a return to racing at Belmont Park, while prioritizing the health and welfare of our staff and the racing community,” said NYRA CEO and president David O’Rourke. “A revised live racing schedule is an on-going consideration, but secondary to our primary commitment to the health and well-being of the community.”
Among the Stakes Races to be postponed at the Big A are the Wood Memorial, and the Carter Handicap. Both races were originally scheduled for April 4th, and will now be run later, on a yet-to-be determined date.
As of right now the 152nd running of the $1.5 million dollar Belmont Stakes is still on tap for June 6th, it is the centerpiece of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which begins June 4th.
Cuomo announced Saturday that New York State had received federal approval to move forward with the temporary hospital at Aqueduct Racetrack, as well as with other temporary hospitals located in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
O’Rourke went on to say: “Now that Governor Cuomo has secured the federal approval, Aqueduct Racetrack will serve as a safe haven for those recovering from this virus. We recognize that we all must work together as a community to meet this challenge and emerge stronger for it. NYRA also joins the governor in extending our deepest gratitude to the first responders, medical professionals, and volunteers who continue to operate on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.”
The New York Racing Association suspended racing at Aqueduct on March 20th after a backstretch worker at Belmont Park tested positive for COVID-19. By March 26, the confirmed number of backstretch workers with COVID-19 had grown to six. Queens has the most cases of the virus in New York City.
NYRA properties are no strangers to being put into service for emergencies. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Belmont Park was a staging area for some emergency responders at the World Trade Center complex. While the parking lot at Aqueduct was used by the American Red Cross for a mobile feeding operation after Super-storm Sandy in 2012.
The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in New York City has soared above 26,000; 450 people have died there. The newly proposed facilities at Aqueduct will open sometime in April.