Cuomo: COVID-19 cases spike in NY with worst still weeks away

Speaking from the Javits Center in New York City Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update on coronavirus cases, which have now surpassed 26,000 cases statewide.

“The rate of increase of infection is doubling every three days,” Mr. Cuomo said, adding that the worst could still be 14 to 21 days ahead.

The governor said the situation was first likened to a freight train coming.

“Now, we are looking at a bullet train,” the governor said.

Here are some key takeaways from the governor’s morning briefing:

• The need for hospital beds is accelerating. The state currently has around 50,000 hospital beds and the need was first projected at 110,000. Gov. Cuomo said the need is now projected to be 140,000 and he has ordered hospitals to increase their capacity by at least half.

He’s also exploring options to use space in hotels and college dormitories to add beds.

“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds that we need,” he said, also adding that they need additional staff to tend to the beds as well.

• New York will begin drug trials to treat COVID-19 patients Tuesday. The trials will include hydroxychloroquine, a medication used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and Zithromax, an antibiotic, which Gov. Cuomo said he is optimistic about.

The governor also announced that state health officials will begin an experimental procedure that uses blood plasma to treat COVID-19. Under the procedure, plasma is taken from somebody who has been infected with the virus and has recovered and then injected into someone who is still sick, Mr. Cuomo explained, adding that antibodies developed in those who have recovered may help someone still “struggling” with the disease.

• While items such as gloves, surgical masks and gowns continue to be purchased and distributed to health care workers around the state, Gov. Cuomo said the next greatest critical need is ventilators. He said the state has procured 7,000 ventilator machines and will need 30,000 to fight the apex of the virus.

“The ventilator will mean the difference between life and death,” especially for patients with underlying respiratory problems, the governor said.

Health officials have even begun experimenting with splitting ventilators to accommodate two patients, which is a difficult undertaking. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said.

• The governor did not mince words for the federal government, criticizing a plan by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send 400 ventilators to New York. “You’re missing the magnitude of the problem,” Mr. Cuomo said, calling on the federal government to utilize the Federal Defense Production Act that could mandate manufacturers to produce ventilators.

“Volunteerism is nice…it’s a beautiful thing,” the governor said. “But that is not going to get us there.”

Gov. Cuomo also called on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to release 20,000 ventilators that are part of the federal stockpile to New York and then prioritize resources to other states that will see inevitable increases in confirmed cases.

At 26,665 cases Tuesday morning, New York has far surpassed states like Washington and California, which each have around 2,000 cases. Gov. Cuomo issued a grim warning to the rest of the nation on Tuesday. Though New York has been the first state to be hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, he suspects other states will be faced with a similar dire situation in a matter of time.

“Where we are today, you will be in three weeks,” he said. “What we do here will chart the course for what we do in your city and your community.”

The governor ended the briefing on a more positive note, assuring that New York would get through the crisis.

“You have to be smart to make it in New York,” he said. “We are resourceful, and we are showing how resourceful we are.”