NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the rate of increase of coronavirus cases in New York has grown, and the rate of new infections is doubling every three days.
“That is a dramatic increase in the rate of infection,” Cuomo said. “We’re not slowing it, and it is accelerating it on its own.”
Cuomo says new projections suggest New York will now need up to 140,000 hospital beds, and has a current capacity of roughly 53,000 beds.
The governor spoke surrounded by supplies that are shipping out to area hospitals and in the presence of National Guard mobilized to meet the health crisis.
There will be a need for 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators, well more than the state’s current capacity of approximately 3,000-4,000.
The peak of the pandemic in New York is now 14-21 days away, Cuomo said.
“One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We are now looking at a bullet train,” he said.
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“We need, at a minimum, an additional 30,000 ventilators. You can not buy them. You can not find them,” he said. “We’re going so far as to try an experimental procedure where we split the ventilator. We use one ventilator for two patients.”
Cuomo again called on the federal government to provide additional ventilators by invoking the Defense Production Act and mandating companies produce them immediately.
“If we don’t have the ventilators in 14 days, it does us no good,” he said. “Not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me.”
Private firms, including Ford, are gearing up to make ventilators, but the delivery date is weeks away.
“We have to scale this up because the factories as we know them weren’t built to produce the volumes we need to make,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said.
“Volunteerism is nice and it is a beautiful thing, and it’s nice that these companies are coming forward and saying they want to help. That is not going to get us there. And I do not for the life of me understand the reluctance to use the Federal Defense Production Act,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the federal government needs to be sending aid to where need is greatest, and that New York has ten times the cases of any other state in the country.
More than 90,000 New Yorkers have been tested and more than 25,000 people have tested positive for the virus.
There are 3,224 people hospitalized with coronavirus, and 756 people in ICU units with ventilators so far.
“That’s 23 percent of the hospitalizations. That’s the problem. As the number of cases go up, the number of people in hospital beds goes up, the number of people who need an ICU bed and a ventilator goes up, and we can not address that increasing curve,” Cuomo said.
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Cuomo issued a warning to the rest of the country.
“We are just the test case. And that’s how the nation should look at it. Look at us today. Where we are today, you will be in three weeks, or four weeks, or five weeks, or six weeks. We are your future, and what we do here will chart the course for what we do in your city and in your community. I’m not asking you to help New York just to help New York, I’m asking you to help New York to help yourselves,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the economic concerns of the pandemic must be addressed, but the focus must be first on saving lives.
“My mother is not expendable. And your mother is not expendable. And our brothers and sisters are not expendable. And we’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable and we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life. First order of business is save lives, period. Whatever it costs,” he said.
Cuomo toured the space Monday, noting the set-up of four 250-bed field hospitals would take about a week to 10 days.
In addition to the initial 1,000 beds being made available, Cuomo said an additional 1,000 beds for “lighter medical care” could also be built within Javits, a venue known more for auto shows, trade conventions, comic cons.
In total there will be about 350 federal staffers working in the initial combined site within Javits, covering 160,000 square feet, Cuomo said.
Other locations Cuomo put on his list as field hospital sites included the campuses at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Westbury, and the Westchester Convention Center. Each of those would have one 250-bed unit under the management of FEMA.
And the race is on to get supplies to health care workers. The federal government sent hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, gowns and face shields to New York state. Many of those supplies are already at the Javits Center.
But city officials stress they need more.
President Donald Trump responded Tuesday afternoon on the FOX News channel.
“If you think about Governor Cuomo, we’re building him four hospitals, we’re building him four medical centers, we’re working very, very hard for the people of New York, we’re working along with him, and then I watch him on the show complaining,” Trump said.
Tuesday evening, members of the president’s coronavirus task force called for anyone who has left New York to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We remain deeply concerned about New York City and the New York metro area,” said Dr. Deborah Birx. “We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggest people have left the city.”
The message to everyone for now remains stay home until further notice.