NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Conversion of the main showroom floor of the Javits Center is expected to begin this week, turning the 1.8 million square feet of convention space into New York City’s first COVID-19 field hospital.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the plans Saturday and toured the space Monday, noting the set-up of four 250-bed field hospitals would take about a week to 10 days.

“This is going to get much worse before it gets better,” said Cuomo. “We are still in the relative calm before the storm. You’re going to see the number of infections, the number of cases increase dramatically.

“You’re going to see an over-capacity of our health system,” he said. “Right now, we’re projecting you’ll see more people come into the health care system than we can handle.”

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During his media briefing Monday, the governor mandated that hospitals increase capacity by at least 50%, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.

In addition to the initial 1,000 beds being made available, Cuomo said an additional 1,000 beds for “lighter medical care” could also be built within Javits, a venue known more for auto shows, trade conventions, comic cons.

“This was never an intended use, but you do what you have to do,” Cuomo said. “That’s the New York way, that’s the American way.”

In total there will be about 350 federal staffers working in the initial combined site within Javits, covering 160,000 square feet, Cuomo said.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Other locations Cuomo put on his list as field hospital sites included the campuses at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Westbury, and the Westchester Convention Center. Each of those would have one 250-bed unit under the management of FEMA.

And the race is on to get supplies to health care workers. The federal government sent hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, gowns and face shields to New York state. Many of those supplies are already at the Javits Center.

But city officials stress they need more.

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