ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo, faced with what is expected to be a peak of COVID-19 cases in about a week, said Saturday that the focus has shifted from beds to finding staff and equipment for that staff.
“Nobody expected the need for equipment that we have. We were focusing on beds, and it turns out now we're dealing with a PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage.”
In his daily press briefing, Cuomo said the Javits Center temporary federal medical facility, now being converted into a 2500 bed COVID-19-only hospital, will be a “significant relief valve” for downstate hospitals already stressed and facing even higher patient numbers.
The governor said that the virus appears to be heading east, rather than north. He displayed a chart showing the concentration of confirmed cases by region. Upstate has remained relatively stable at about 4-5% of the cases. Rockland and Westchester Counties are also stabilizing at about 6-7%. But while NYC has dropped from 75% to 65%, Long Island has risen to 22% of the confirmed cases.
The latest numbers show a continuing increase statewide, with 10,482 new cases, bringing the total of COVID-19 positive cases in the state to 113,704. Of that number, 15,905 are hospitalized, and the number of people in ICU is up by another 395. He pointed out that the number of patients discharged is now rising sharply, up to 10,478.
The death toll now stands at 3565 statewide, and almost a thousand of those deaths are outside New York City.
Cuomo said he'd be on a conference call with hospitals throughout the state to coordinate deployment of excess supplies, a move he said yesterday would be made by the National Guard by Executive Order. Cuomo said that 20% of available, unused ventilators in the state totals about 500. Upstate Republican legislators at both the state and federal level reacted to yesterday's announcement with outrage.
Meanwhile, Cuomo announced that Governor Kate Brown of Oregon surprised him with a phone call telling him 140 ventilators are on their way from her state to New York. Cuomo referred to that as “astonishing and unexpected,” and promised New York would repay the favor “double fold.”
He said the federal government is also sending more ventilators to New York, but even more helpful, he said, was the decision to allow the Javits Center to serve as a COVID-only facility.
China, Cuomo said, with the assistance of some Asian American business owners and foundation, is donating 1,000 ventilators to New York, and they are expected to arrive today.
Cuomo compared New York's situation with Wuhan, China, where the virus first took hold.
“We have to contain the enemy.”
He cited Franklin Delano Roosevelt's explanation of the Lend/Lease Act, which promised the U.S. would assist other countries in a war.
“It's a common enemy,” Cuomo said. “FDR compared it to owning a length of garden hose when your next door neighbor's house catches fire. 'If I lend my hose, I may help put the fire out, saving both his house and mine. If it works, he returns my hose. If the hose is ruined, he replaces it. Either way, if I get a hose back, I'm in pretty good shape.'”
More that 24 hospitals downstate have already tapped into the thousands of out-of-state medical volunteers to shore up staff depleted by illness and fatigue. Cuomo said some manufacturers have stepped up, offering to retool to produce gowns, masks and other personal protective equipment.
Governor Cuomo said that after passing the state budget, the legislative session is, for all intents and purposes, over. But the legislature passed a resolution allowing themselves to vote remotely, so he said that decision is up to them.