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Sh’or Yoshuv Institute in Lawrence could be a makeshift hospital

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Sh’or Yoshuv Institute, an Orthodox Jewish school in Lawrence, donated 25 ventilators to the Northwell Health System, and its Cedar Lawn Avenue building has been proposed as a possible location for an ad hoc hospital where mild cases of Covid-19 could be treated.

Northwell Health  Terry Lynam said that the yeshiva is one of many places that are on the health care system’s radar as it strives to increase bed capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with assisted-living facilities, colleges, hotels and nursing homes across Long Island and in New York City.

“We’re still in discussions with the yeshiva, but there is no signed agreement,” Lynam said. “We would still need all the approvals — state, county and other local approvals.” He added that the patients most likely to be placed at Sh’or Yoshuv would be “lower acuity” patients who require much less care than those on ventilators and in intensive care.

Lynam said that because of the rapid rate of infection, Northwell is at 90 percent of its hospital bed capacity, and 75 percent of those patients have Covid-19. “If the outbreak continues to spike, we’ll need to find intensive care space in our hospital — what we call ‘surge capacity’ — and need other options to add bed space,” Lynam said, adding that the timeline for creating additional bed space is the next couple of weeks.

As case numbers continue to rise, Lawrence and Woodmere have been hit hard, because of the increase in testing and because a portion of the Jewish community was slow to stop gathering in large groups as the state-mandated social distancing guidelines went into effect.

As of press time, Woodmere had 263 cases and there were 107 in Lawrence, by far the highest totals in the Five Towns.

“The Village of Lawrence appreciates the unselfish efforts of all those involved in this project and their commitment to the health and safety of the entire community,” Mayor Alex Edelman said of the proposed use of the yeshiva as a makeshift hospital.

Sh’or Yoshuv is a Haredi yeshiva founded in 1967 by Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld in Far Rockaway. The school moved to Lawrence in 2003. Haredi Judaism is known for its adherence to a strict interpretation of Jewish law and values, in contrast to contemporary practices.

The possibility of converting Sh’or Yoshuv into a medical facility produced an uproar of negative comments on Facebook after a couple of stories about the plan appeared and then disappeared online.

While most were of the comments were critical, and written before more information became available, one, from Kalmen Barkin noted the potential upside. “I think if they play their cards right they can actually look very good in the news,” Barkin wrote. “Local community builds emergency hospital to care for its people.”

On the Lawrence District 15 Residents Facebook page, Sarah Cohen posted, “These type of hospitals [are] being opened up almost everywhere right now. We are lucky to have something like this in our area.” Fayge Pollan Feder added, “This is a beautiful thing.”

Calls to the school, and to school officials, seeking comment had not been returned as the Herald went to press on Tuesday.