NEW YORK CITY — Samaritan’s Purse, the Franklin Graham-led evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization, said Tuesday that they were looking at partnering with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, as a field hospital site to help treat coronavirus patients, if necessary.
“Samaritan’s Purse, in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System, is currently looking at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as an expansion site to increase our capacity to treat patients with COVID-19. Our goal is to do all that we can to prepare for an upsurge in cases, but we continue to pray that the virus subsides so that this additional site is never needed. We continue to stand with the people of New York in the fight against this vicious disease,” the organization said in a statement to The Christian Post.
The statement comes after The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Graham confirmed Samaritan’s Purse would set up a field hospital under the church’s 124-foot-high stone nave.
Dean of the cathedral, the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, told The New York Times, which first reported on the story Monday, that nine climate-controlled medical tents capable of holding at least 200 patients will be erected inside the cathedral by the end of the week.
“The last thing like this was the flu pandemic in 1918, but the world was different then and I don’t think they used the cathedral in this way,” Daniel said in an interview inside the empty church. “But traditionally, in earlier centuries, cathedrals were always used this way, like during the plague. So this is not outside the experience of being a cathedral, it is just new to us.”
The field hospital was also reported by the Episcopal News Service as a partnership between the cathedral, Mount Sinai hospital network and Samaritan’s Purse, which already has a field hospital running on the East Lawn of Central Park.
Lisa Schubert, the cathedral’s vice president of programming and external relations, said details of the partnership are expected to be finalized in a few days. The Washington Post reported that Franklin was expected to fly to New York City on Tuesday and meet with officials at the cathedral.
Samaritan’s Purse would not confirm these details beyond what they said was their latest and only statement on the plan that will tentatively see the addition of another 400 hospital beds in the city.
Schubert said it had not yet been decided if the cathedral would handle coronavirus cases, but said Monday that within 10 days they would start accepting patients.
“Everything is happening in real time,” Schubert told Episcopal News Service. “What we knew a week ago is very different from what we know now.”