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• The field hospitals set up in tents in New York’s Central Park were treating coronavirus patients from the Mount Sinai Health System.
• There is no evidence that children are being held in, or released from, underground captivity in New York.
• This conspiracy has been researched and debunked by other news outlets.
As the early epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, New York City scrambled to expand its hospital capacity.
The Navy hospital ship traveled to New York to relieve the pressure on hospitals; the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was converted into a 4,000-bed medical center; and a field hospital was set up in Central Park.
The Central Park tent hospital, operated by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian group run by the son of late televangelist Billy Graham, has since become the focus of online conspiracy theories.
"Thousands of babies and children are being brought up out of underground tunnels in New York's Central Park by military personal (sic), during the night and placed in tents brought in by Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse," one Facebook post says, in all capital letters.
The children, it adds, have been captive underground since birth, subjected to torture and "kept as sex slaves."
There is absolutely no evidence of this.
A 68-bed field hospital was set up in Central Park in April to help overwhelmed hospitals treat patients with COVID-19.
The hospital was made up of 14 tents used primarily for diagnosis, treatment and storage. When it first began operating, it had 10 ventilators and treated patients from Mount Sinai Health System hospitals in New York’s Queens and Brooklyn boroughs.
Beginning April 1, an organization known as Samaritan’s Purse, working with Mount Sinai, treated nearly 200 coronavirus patients in the Central Park field hospital.
The facility operated until May 5, and "all patients under Samaritan’s Purse care" have since been discharged, according to its website.
Samaritan’s Purse said there is no truth to the claims about abused children being treated there.
"These are totally false rumors," Kaitlyn Lahm, a Samaritan’s Purse spokesperson, said in a statement to PolitiFact.
"We worked hand-in-hand with Mount Sinai Hospital to bring desperately needed surge capacity," she said. "All patients treated at the Emergency Field Hospital were transferred from Mount Sinai to Samaritan’s Purse."
QAnon "centers on the baseless belief that (President Donald) Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the ‘deep state’ and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals," according to AP reports.
A post claims, "Thousands of babies and children are being brought up out of underground tunnels in New York's Central Park by military personal (sic), during the night and placed in tents brought in by Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse."
The Central Park hospital treated coronavirus patients. There is no evidence to support the claim that it housed abused children released from captivity. It appears the claim originated with the QAnon conspiracy group.
Samaritan’s Purse said the claims are false.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.
Vice, "Coronavirus Is the Crisis of Conspiracy Theorists' Wildest Dreams," April 8, 2020
The Guardian, "Questions mount over Christian group behind Central Park Covid-19 hospital," April 19, 2020
Untapped New York, "A Look at the Central Park Field Hospital for Coronavirus," March 31, 2020
Samaritan’s Purse, "Responding to Coronavirus," accessed May 7, 2020
The Atlantic, "The Surreal Field Hospital in Central Park," April 3, 2020
New York Times, "The 1,000-Bed Comfort Was Supposed to Aid New York. It Has 20 Patients," April 2, 2020
Washington Post, "Inside the Javits Center: New York’s militarized, makeshift hospital," April 4, 2020
Associated Press, "Virus-fueled conspiracy theories take aim at hospitals," April 17, 2020
Associated Press, "‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory creeps into mainstream politics," Feb. 9, 2020
NBC News, "Opposition to Samaritan's Purse Central Park field hospital grows," April 15, 2020
Religion News Service, "Samaritan’s Purse Central Park field hospital to close as virus cases drop in NYC," May 4, 2020
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