ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that, at the current rate of COVID-19's spread, the state's supply of ventilators will be gone in a week. At his daily press briefing, Cuomo said he has spoken with the president and vice-president, and he doesn't believe the federal government has any more ventilators to send.
“I don't think the federal government is in a position to provide ventilators to the extent that the states need them.”
Cuomo said multiple projections for the apex of the pandemic indicate it could hit in 7 days, or 21 days, or 30 days, depending on the model.
“It makes it difficult to plan, frankly,” he said. “We believe it is closer to the shorter end of the range.”
Numbers in Nassau and Westchester County are rising far faster than other counties outside of New York City. The governor said every county in the state now has a confirmed case of COVID-19, something experts predicted.
“It is false comfort to say 'we are a rural community.' New York, in many ways, is a microcosm of the United States and is probably illustrative of what is going to happen in the rest of the country.”
Cuomo said the state will shift supplies to meet the need, identifying ventilators around the state and moving them where they're needed, plus he said multiple avenues are being explored to create more options for patients who require ventilators. The state has an approved system for splitting one ventilator between two patients, and is converting both anesthesia machines and lower-pressure respirators, known as BiPAPs, into ventilators. The state is buying more BiPAP machines while still looking to purchase more ventilators, but Cuomo said there are no more to be bought.
“I don't have a New York Defense Production Act at my disposal,” Cuomo said. “And it is too late to ask a company to make them. They can't do it in time.”
But he did make a public appeal for state manufacturers to retool to make other protective equipment. He said the state would not only pay top dollar for those supplies, but would pay for whatever changes need to be made to adjust the production, so long as it's done immediately. Cuomo said the idea of creating a national buying consortium for buying is now pointless.
“It's too late,” he said. “Our attitude here is we're on our own.”
The governor said 21,000 out-of -state medical volunteers have offered to help staff New York's health facilities, something for which he expressed deep gratitude and promised, “New Yorkers will return the favor.” He said upstate staff is being shifted to downstate facilities which are under more stress, and the transfer of downstate patients to upstate facilities has begun and will continue.
Cuomo said the New York Healthcare Exchange enrollment has been extended to May 15 and he encouraged anyone still uninsured to get coverage. He said projections show that even after the apex of the virus has hit, the virus will continue to linger through the summer.
His brother, newsman Chris Cuomo, who is isolated at home after being confirmed with the virus, appeared in a live video feed, which gave the younger Cuomo an opportunity to describe his experience and his symptoms, while also continuing the pair's now-expected sibling ribbing.
On Wednesday night, Empire State Development and the New York State Association of Realtors announced that real estate has been moved to the “essential services” category. The governor did not address the change nor did the press at the briefing ask about it. He was asked about infrastructure construction, something he said was important to prepare for getting the state back to work when the public health emergency is over.
The daily COVID-19 numbers, according to the governor, continue to trend upwards. He said there are now 92,381 positive cases and 13,383 people hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 3396 of them are in ICU. He said 7,434 people have been discharged from the hospital, and 2,373 people have died. Almost 239,000 people have been tested. The latest model funded by the Gates Foundation predicts 93,000 people are expected to die in the US, with New York's fatalities expected to reach 16,000.