ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that federal help to increase the number of hospital beds is coming to New York following a series conversations with President Donald Trump.
Cuomo said the Army Corps of Engineers is being sent to New York Wednesday afternoon to look at construction of hospitals and mobile hospital sites amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. The mobile hospitals have a capacity of 200-250 people, Cuomo said.
“Our planning will track where the cases are. Wherever you have a cluster of cases, that’s where you will add capacity,” Cuomo said. “Wherever we see these clusters pop up.”
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The USNS Comfort hospital ship, with 1,000 beds in it, is being dispatched to New York, Cuomo announced.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has spoken directly with Cuomo about how Department of Defense assets like the Comfort and Army Corps of Engineers might be used in the state.
Discussing the need for federal assistance, Cuomo again cautioned “the state can not do this on its own. We don’t have the capacity. We don’t have the workforce.”
Cuomo also issued an executive order saying no business can have more than 50% of their workforce report to work outside of their home, except for essential services.
A master list of what the state considers “essential services” is being prepared, the governor says.
Each new restriction is a test, the governor says, and they made need to be even stricter.
“All workforce 50% except essential services, we’ll see if that slows the spread. If it doesn’t slow the spread, then we will reduce the number of workers even further,” Cuomo said.
I just signed into law paid sick leave to guarantee pay for those under mandatory or precautionary quarantine.
In New York we stand with our workers in sickness and in health. pic.twitter.com/jkKpTyCtp8
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 18, 2020
Wednesday evening, Cuomo announced he signed a bill guaranteeing paid leave for New Yorkers under mandatory or precautionary quarantine, saying:
“I just signed into law legislation to provide immediate relief to working New Yorkers whose lives are being turned upside down by COVID-19.
“No one should have to make the impossible choice between losing their job or providing for their family and going to work, especially during this pandemic. We seek to build upon this effort with guaranteed sick leave for all in this year’s budget.
“In New York we stand with our workers in sickness and in health.”
There are now more than 2,300 cases in New York state, Cuomo said, with more than 1,000 new cases identified as testing ramps up. More than 14,000 tests have been conducted in the state.
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Department of Health regulations are being waived temporarily to allow more beds into hospitals. The state continues to also reach out to retired doctors and nurses and medical schools to try to boost the number of health care workers available to confront the virus.
Cuomo says up to 110,000 hospital beds may be required.
“This is all about the capacity of the health care system, and it always has been,” Cuomo said.
“Our main scramble now is for ventilators,” Cuomo said, displaying one at his news conference. “This is a respiratory illness… the ventilators actually help people breathe. This is the machine you often see in hospitals. It’s commonplace in hospitals. It’s just the number that we need is much higher.”
Cuomo said it’s the “number one” device that is needed, and it is needed all across the country – and world.
Cuomo again reminded people to “remember the facts” as regards COVID-19.
“I understand the anxiety, I understand the fear,” Cuomo said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion.”
Cuomo said 108 people in New York state have already recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
One of the people who have recovered was the state’s first case, a 39-year-old health care worker.
“The first case that we had in New York, which was the health care worker and her husband that returned from Iran and tested positive. She never went into a hospital. She was at home, quarantined. She has now been recovering at home. She actually took a second coronavirus test and tested negative,” Cuomo said. “Two weeks later, tests negative. Which means she has resolved the virus in her body and now tests negative. And as we’ve said, 80% of the people, that’s what will happen. She was never hospitalized, and she resolved two weeks later. That’s what people have to keep in mind.”
The New Rochelle lawyer at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in Westchester County is also making progress in his recovery. In a Facebook post, Lawrence Garbuz’s wife, Adina, shared that he is “awake, alert and on the road to a full recovery.” She also expressed her gratitude to the medical professionals who are caring for him, under increasingly stressful conditions.
Cuomo says protecting vulnerable populations, like senior citizens and people with underlying conditions including compromised immune systems, is a key goal.
“Worse than the virus is the fear that we’re dealing with,” Cuomo said. “The panic and the fear is wholly disconnected from the reality.”
Cuomo discussed the possibility of “shelter in place” orders.
“I don’t believe any policy works unless the geographic footprint is large enough,” he said. “It can’t just be New York City. It would have to be Long Island, Rockland, Westchester and the rest of the state.”
Cuomo said such a shelter in place order could jeopardize the availability of health care and food delivery workers.
“I would never shut down food, transportation, essential services,” he said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had revealed he was considering it in New York City on Tuesday, but he backtracked those comments in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“It’s very clear rules about staying home with only minimal activity, get rid of all non-essential work,” he said. “I talked to the governor a couple hours ago … I do think we share urgency and we’re working together on a common approach.”
Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner, said state officials were investigating a potential cluster of in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
“That is something that is new on the radar and we are investigating it today,” Zucker said.
There has been reporting about a possible cluster of cases in Boro Park. Our Health Commissioner has looked into it and has not identified any connection between these cases. At this time, she does NOT believe there is any cluster.
— Freddi Goldstein (@FreddiGoldstein) March 19, 2020
The mayor’s press secretary tweeted Wednesday night that the city’s health commissioner does not believe there is a cluster.