ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily press briefing that he will sign an Executive Order mandating that hospitals around the state release their excess medical equipment to be redistributed to hospitals where there is the greatest need. He said he has exhausted all avenues to purchase those supplies, he continues to begs manufacturers in the state to retool at state expense to make personal protective equipment, gowns, and masks, and the federal government appears to have no stockpile of ventilators to share.
“Am I seizing equipment? No, I'm taking excess equipment to save lives,” he said. “Several hundred ventilators means saving several hundred lives. We're not going to have any part of the state not have what they need because we didn't share. The need is downstate now. But it will shift and we will shift those resources all over the state.”
Cuomo said hospitals aren't being cleaned out of equipment, they're being required to calculate their needs for the short term and hand over the rest. Any equipment taken will be returned when the need is past, or the state will pay to replace it.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, who also attends the daily briefings, said that a few dozen downstate patients have been moved upstate to relieve the strain on downstate hospitals, and that will continue. Cuomo also said that FEMA “reluctantly” agreed to allow the new emergency hospital at the Javits Center to be a COVID-19-only facility after he asked the president to intervene. The USN Comfort, sent by Washington to take non-COVID patients only, reportedly has only about twenty patients. That's something Cuomo said he will discuss with the Navy today.
“Overall, hospitals are reporting that their non-COVID patients are way down,” he said. “Crime is down, accidents are down. Most new patients are COVID-positive.”
The daily tally of new cases hit a disturbing milestone overnight – the highest single day surge in deaths from the virus since the first case was confirmed. 2935 people have died, up from 2373 the day before. The total number of cases statewide is now 102,863, with 14,810 of those people hospitalized. 3731 are in ICU beds, while 8886 have been discharged overall. Long Island, Cuomo said, is now become a hotspot.
The governor announced that the state budget, which includes the nation's first domestic terrorism law, bail reform, a middle class tax cut, and the ban of fentanyl, among other items, was passed overnight.
“New York State is broke,” he said, “so the budget is calibrated to future revenues or losses. We are heavily reliant on federal aid for the programs we administer, like education and health care.”
Cuomo said he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she understood the challenges, and was told a new relief bill is being crafted.
Melissa DeRose, Secretary to the Governor, said reports of domestic violence are up about 15 to 20% during the social distancing restrictions. She urged anyone who needs help to call the state's Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-942-6906. She said all calls will be investigated, and alternative, safe housing can be provided.
Cuomo also took the opportunity to illustrate how he believes the operational response to the pandemic should be handled at the federal level. He included charts and numbers, in an explanation that sounded like it was aimed at the White House.
“National deployment is the only model that can work,” he said. “Focus on the emergency at the place and time that is in front of you, then redeploy people and supplies as they're needed.”
He compared the situation to how power companies respond to natural disasters and said that needs to be coordinated at the federal level.
“This is operational.You see trucks from all over the country come in to help after a flood or a hurricane,” he said. “New York is in crisis. People are going to die in the near term because they walk into a hospital and there's no bed, or no staff, or no supplies. We are a community We are the same. I believe the American people are there. That's how we beat this damned virus.”
Regarding reports that the federal government is going to mandate the use of face masks, Cuomo clarified after Dr. Zucker said they “won't help.”
“It couldn't hurt,” Cuomo said. “He's a medical professional – he's talking about me using a bandanna instead of an N-95 mask. But for every day use, just don't let it give you a false sense of security.”
Cuomo also unveiled a new state seal, which now includes the words “E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One,” the state motto, Excelsior (Ever Upwards), and “I Work For the People – Performance, Integrity, Pride.”