NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo started his daily update on the state’s fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak with a reflection back on how short it’s been since life was turned upside down for millions of people.

“New York State had its first case of COVID just 27 days ago,” he said on Saturday. “New York schools closed only 10 days ago, the New Rochelle cluster – which was the highest cluster in the United States – that was 18 days ago. The overall shutdown of non-essential workers was only eight days ago. Feels like a lifetime.”

By the numbers, New York State’s COVID-19 infections grew to 52,318 confirmed infections, up 7,681 new cases, with 7,328 hospitalized, 1,755 critically in ICU units, and 728 total deaths. A total of 2,726 people have been discharged from hospital care after coming in with coronavirus infections.

To meet the urgent demand to come as the outbreak continues to climb to its “apex” of infections, Cuomo announced his request for additional help setting up field hospitals across the outer boroughs had been granted by President Donald Trump, and the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers would be ready to open the FEMA-run facilities at the Javits Center on Monday.

Beyond the 1.8 million square feet inside Javits Center, FEMA-run sites will be set up in these locations:

Cuomo also said the state would be setting up COVID-only hospitals and routing patients to other medical conditions such as heart disease to relocate elsewhere, and even set up a network when patients from one overrun area would be moved to other locations in the state to balance the influx.

“You may have patients from downstate New York being moved to upstate New York,” Cuomo said. “It’s smarter to keep the COVID patients separate. You don’t want a person who goes into a hospital with one situation developing COVID because they happened to be exposed.”

Cuomo identified Westchester Square in the Bronx, South Beach Psychiatric Center in Staten Island and SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn as possibilities for COVID-only hospitals.

Monday will also see the arrival in New York of the USNS Comfort, a Mercy-class naval hospital ship that set to sea on Saturday. The ship will take in patients who do not have the coronavirus.

New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky suggests bringing back Long Beach Medical Center, which closed in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy.

“I thought it makes sense to take a look at Long Beach Medical Center. Unlike a lot of other temporary field hospitals, we know the building could work as a hospital because it already was one,” Kaminsky said.

Despite the signs of wider support, Cuomo continued to warn about the need for additional beds, equipment and especially ventilators.

“Based on the science, based on the numbers, the data says at that high point of need you could need 140,000 hospital beds and you could need 30,000, ventilators,” said Cuomo. “That’s what the numerical projections say, so we’re planning for that ‘worst-case scenario’ which the models predict.”

If the state cannot get enough ventilators, Cuomo said medical staff would have to resort to bag valve masks that require someone to manually and continuously squeeze air into an infected patient’s lungs. With 4,000 on order, Cuomo said National Guard members could be used, but that plan was impractical.

“If we have to turn to this device on any large scale basis, that is not an acceptable situation,” he said. “So we go back to finding the ventilators because we need the ventilators.”

The ventilators cost $25,000 to $45,000 each, money Cuomo says the state will not be able to cover without new revenue coming in.

Other medical measures being taken in New York State include testing the use of hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax to slow the effects of COVID-19 in patients.


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