Gov. Cuomo: Priority is to not overwhelm hospitals; Bellone says four more deaths in Suffolk

During his daily briefing Monday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a call to action to health care workers across the nation to help New York battle the coronavirus outbreak, which has now surpassed 66,497 cases statewide.

“The soldiers in this fight are our health care professionals,” he said. 

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City only situation is in a state of denial,” he added, vowing to return the favor to states who help. “No American is immune to this virus.”

Earlier Monday, Gov. Cuomo welcomed the USNS Comfort to New York Harbor. The 1,000 bed hospital ship will not treat COVID-19 patients but will help relieve strained New York hospitals and be used as “overflow,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the ship carried the U.S. Navy flag from Suffolk County that normally is flown at Armed Forces Plaza in Hauppauge.

“That flag was brought there for the ceremony today and we’ll bring it back here at some point and fly it again,” he said. “We’re proud to have that connection because of the mission of that vessel, which is to save the lives of New Yorkers.”

He re-emphasized that the pandemic threatens to overwhelm the state’s hospitals, who must increase their capacity to treat patients.

In addition to calling on other states to provide supplies and healthcare workers, Mr. Cuomo called on the state’s hospitals to pool their resources. “No one hospital has the resources to handle this,” he said, in terms of supplies and staff. He called for a “totally different operating paradigm,” for both public and private hospital systems across the state.

He said this morning he convened with the entire health care system to work together to share supplies via a central stockpile and also share staff. “If one hospital doesn’t have enough masks, rather than that hospital have to scramble, let the other hospitals help,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Kenneth Raske, the president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, agreed that the need for personal protective equipment is dire. “We are going to be one cohesive family in tackling this,” he said.

The governor spoke from the Javits Center in Manhattan, which will also serve as a non-COVID-19 field hospital during the pandemic.

He said New York must get ahead of the problem in anticipation of the virus’ apex, which is expected in mid-April.

“This virus has been ahead of us from day one,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If you wait to prepare for the storm to hit, it is too late, my friends.”

Here are some key figures from Monday’s briefing:

• There are now 66,497 positive COVID-19 cases in New York State. While 9,517 patients remain hospitalized, 4,204 patients have been discharged. “People leave the hospital,” the governor said. “That’s important to remember.”

• The death toll has surpassed 1,000, with 1,218 deaths reported. That’s up from 965 Sunday. “It’s a lot of loss, it’s a lot of pain, it’s a lot of tears and it’s a lot of grief that people all across the state are feeling,” Mr. Cuomo said.

• The governor did offer a bit of promising news. Last week, the number of positive cases was doubling every two or three day, which is now down to every six days.

• New York leads the way in testing, swabbing more people per capita than China and South Korea. Approximately 14,000 people were tested Sunday, Gov. Cuomo said.

• The governor took a sharp tone in addressing people who are not practicing social distancing. He reminded everyone to stay home and if they must go out, keep six feet of distance between others. “I know the isolation can be boring and oppressive,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It is better than the alternative.”

Mr. Bellone also held a Monday afternoon briefing and confirmed four additional fatalities in Suffolk County, bringing the total to 44. He did not have many specifics immediately available about the victims and said the county was waiting for confirmation of next of kin being notified for one victim.

He identified the victims as as person in their 90s, a person in their late 70s and a person in their late 40s. They all died at local hospitals.

• Total hospitalizations in the county now stands at 601, an increase from 409 two days ago. There are 85 ICU beds available and 181 in use. That’s an increase in 19 from yesterday.

• Total confirmed cases in the county is closing in on the 6,000 mark. Mr. Bellone said the latest figure is 5,791.

• Mr. Bellone spoke about the county’s effort to communicate to Spanish speaking communities. He said the county had been communicating through Spanish media and radio and delivering messages to a network of community organizations “that are very effective in being able to deliver messages to an often tough-to-reach audience.”