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With New York now the epicentre of deaths and contraction due to COVID-19 in the United States, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) has closed one of its main tracks, Aqueduct, for the foreseeable future.

With spring and summer on its way, Aqueduct was set for a major racing season.

Not now.

But from the ashes of despair something wonderful has arisen.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been the brightest beacon of hope and leadership in the United States during this pandemic, announced that he wanted Aqueduct to now be used as a hospital for the coronavirus patients of NY.

So, on Friday, Cuomo surmised that it would be a great opportunity to help the growing 1000s of people needing beds and hospital care. And he meant it. He immediately sought the required federal approval to construct a temporary hospital at Aqueduct Racetrack to serve the borough of Queens with a whopping 1,000-plus patient overflow facility.

This action aligns with New York state’s goal to provide COVID-19 patient overflow facilities in each NYC borough as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties. So closing Aqueduct on this weekend was like a gift from God.

Well, good news. His wish and that of thousands of NY residents came true. On Saturday, Governor Cuomo announced that New York state had received the approval to move forward with the temporary hospital at Aqueduct Racetrack as well as locations in Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

NYRA’s CEO Dave O’Rourke confirmed Saturday night that Aqueduct was to be transformed into a hospital.

“The governor’s ability to quickly marshal all available resources is saving lives and inspiring action both here in New York and across the nation.

“Now that Gov. 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 Big-A as Aqueduct is known, was scheduled to start racing on Sunday, this weekend. That has now been put off indefinitely.

Aqueduct’s sister track in New York, Belmont, was slated to start racing on 24 April. It features 58 stakes races and over $18million in prizemoney.

At the moment the plan is still to race then. That meet goes for 51 race days. NRA is closely watching how Australia conducts its race meetings behind closed doors.

The big differences though, are primarily, Australia has one of the lowest per capita rates of coronavirus infections in the world.

New York has the second highest behind Italy.

So stay tuned.

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