New York demands federal help with new projected peak

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo asks for more federal help as New York state faces more concerning numbers and a closer projected apex of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Projections of the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak have changed to be as early as 14 days away and New York state has a dire need for ventilators, hospital beds and staff. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Tuesday that these new facts are “not encouraging” and that the increase in the rate of infection is “dramatic,” all while asking for federal help.

While the term “flatten the curve” has been tossed around over the past few weeks, new graphs show that New York has not yet been able to do so. Statistics show that the rate of positive cases is doubling every three days in New York. 

“One of the forecasters said to me, we were looking at a freight train coming across the country,” Cuomo said. “We’re now looking at a bullet train, because the numbers are going up that quickly.”

Original forecasts showed New York needing to double its current 53,000 hospital beds to an estimated 110,000 beds within 45 days. 

As of Tuesday, however, that has changed to 140,000 beds needed in 14 days, which is the new date for when New York’s apex is expected to hit. 

The estimated number of intensive care units that will be needed is now 40,000 beds.

“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need,” Cuomo said. 

The governor is looking at all available SUNY and CUNY college dormitories across the state as well as hotels to serve as temporary hospitals. 

This week, emergency hospitals are being built at SUNY Old Westbury, SUNY Stony Brook, the Westchester Convention Center and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

ICU beds equipped with ventilators are a life-saving necessity for those hit hard by COVID-19, a virus that attacks the lungs and makes breathing extremely difficult for many patients. Cuomo acknowledged again on Tuesday the need for more of these ventilators. Currently New York state has procured 7,000 ventilators, a small number in comparison to the 30,000 ventilators needed. 

“The ventilator will make the difference between life and death, literally, for these people,” Cuomo said. “You cannot buy them, you cannot find them. Every state is trying to get them, other countries are trying to get them.

Cuomo is strongly pushing for the federal Defense Production Act to be put into place, which would allow for ventilators to be made in a faster amount of time. The law gives the federal government the right to force companies to produce certain equipment or supplies in times of emergency. President Trump has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to “nationalize” private companies in the U.S., instead asking for businesses to begin producing supplies voluntarily.

But Cuomo said the urgency of the situation warrants the Defense Production Act to be put in place.

“Not to exercise that power [of putting in place the Defense Production Act] is inexplicable to me,” Cuomo said. “Volunteerism is nice and it is a beautiful thing – but that is not going to get us there.”

Gov. Cuomo is also calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to use the federal stockpile which has 20,000 ventilators. He pointed out that there is no time to wait to give these to New York state. 

While California is at 2,800 positive cases, Washington at 2,200 and Florida at 1,200, New York has 25,665 positive cases of COVID-19. 

“New York has ten times the problem that California has,” Cuomo said. “You prioritize resources and your activity and your actions to where they are needed … New York is the canary in the coal mine.”

Cuomo believes each state will see their cases spike at different times, and Cuomo is asking that resources be dedicated to one state or one region at a time. Resources would then be handed off to the next state that needs them.

In the meantime, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent New York state 400 ventilators.

“Four hundred ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators,” Cuomo said. “You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? … You’re missing the magnitude of the problem, and the problem is defined by the magnitude.”

In the face of the current shortage, New York doctors are exploring experimental options, such as putting two patients on one ventilator.

Along with ventilators, other equipment is still needed like N-95 masks, face masks, gloves, gowns and face shields. With the hospital capacity increasing, there is also a need for more staff, which Governor Cuomo has continued to ask for. 

On another front, new experimental drug therapies are being launched in New York this week,  including Hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax, plasma injections and an antibody test.

Eighty percent of people who are tested positive with coronavirus will self-resolve, while 20 percent will need hospitalization. Currently 3,234 patients in New York state have been hospitalized, out of that number 756 are ICU patients. 

“We are going to fight every way we can to save every life that we can,” Cuomo said. “Because that’s what I think it means to be an American. I know that’s what it means to be a New Yorker.”