Governor Andrew Cuomo gave “discouraging” news during a Tuesday update on the COVID-19 crisis, telling the public that the apex of the curve will be higher than expected as cases are doubling at a staggering rate of every three days.
Under previous estimates, Cuomo’s administration had been pushing for an expansion of statewide hospital beds from 53,000 to 110,000, but now the governor says 140,000 hospital beds will necessary alongside 40,000 ICU beds within 14 to 21 days.
“The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought, and that is a bad combination of facts,” Cuomo said. “I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need.”
There are 25,662 cases now, 4,700 new ones, and Cuomo said that is why the federal government needs to step in as the state is the “canary in the coal mine.” Anything that happens in New York, according to Cuomo, will happen in other states.
But the state is also looking beyond directives from Washington, DC, for solutions.
At a minimum, Cuomo said, 30,000 ventilators are a “critical and desperate need” here. He also said the state will experiment with splitting a ventilator between two patients as well as transferring plasma from an individual with antibodies to fight COVID-19 to another patient who is struggling.
Cuomo suggested that the federal government direct at least 20,000 of the ventilators it has in stock to New York, which currently has the highest concentration of cases in the nation. After the apex passes in New York, Cuomo said, the state would help transport the equipment to another state as it experiences an apex.
“As soon as we finish with the ventilators, then you move them to the next part of the country that has a critical problem,” the governor said. “And then after that region hits its apex, then you move to the next part of the country that has its critical problems. I will take personal responsibility for transporting the 20,000 ventilators anywhere in this country that they want in this country once we are past our apex, but don’t leave them sitting in the stockpile and say we’re going to wait to see how we allocate them across the country.”
Cuomo scoffed at FEMA for sending New York only 400 ventilators, which were received by the New York City Office of Emergency Management earlier on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s briefing was held in the Javits Center, which has been converted into a makeshift medical facility in the last two days. Patrick Murphy, the commissioner of the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said there are two phases to the rollout of medical care capacity at Javits.
“The basic number is 1,000 and 1,000, and we’re working toward being above that number by the time we’re done dressing it out,” Murphy said explaining officials are aiming for more than 2,000 beds when the Javits triage facility is fully in place.
Cuomo was asked whether a halt to economic activity across the state and nation was justified by the need to protect an estimated one to two percent of the population who are the most vulnerable and at mortal risk, including some among the elderly and others with pre-existing conditions. The governor responded that he is not willing to sacrifice those individuals.