New York state’s hospitals will be overwhelmed under almost any realistic scenario in the coronavirus outbreak and authorities are adding capacity wherever possible to meet soaring demand, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.
The need for hospital beds and ventilators was particularly acute, the governor said, as the hardest hit state in the country reported an additional 100 deaths and 6,448 positive cases between Wednesday and Thursday, increasing its death toll to 385 and total number of cases to 37,258.
“And since we still have a large number of people on ventilators for a long period of time, the experts expect that number (of dead) to continue to increase,” Cuomo told a news conference.
In New York City alone, there were 3,537 new cases in the past day for a total of 21,393.
The governor has become a leading national voice on the coronavirus pandemic as the state has accounted for roughly one-third of the national death toll and half the known number of cases.
Cuomo said the goal was to get to 140,000 hospital bed capacity from the current 53,000 available and that authorities were scouting new sites to build temporary facilities.
“Our goal is to have 1,000 plus overflow facility in each of the boroughs downstate in the counties,” Cuomo said.
In addition, the state has authorized “splitting” ventilators so that one machine could serve two patients and was looking into converting anesthesia machines to ventilators.
Of 5,327 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the state, some 1,290 were in intensive care and in need of ventilators, Cuomo said. Tens of thousands of ventilators could be needed, he said.
“The number of ventilators we need is so astronomical. It’s not like they have them sitting in the warehouse … there is no stockpile available,” Cuomo said.
Asked about social media images of some New York City hospital personnel resorting to trash bags to protect themselves due to a lack of gowns, Cuomo said there was enough protective equipment in stock for the “immediate need,” but not for the longer term.
The governor also criticized the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, saying it failed to provide enough aid to the states.
New York state was allotted $5 billion to help cover rising coronavirus costs, but the bill does not help the state recover lost revenue that will be needed to balance the budget, he said.
Reporting by Maria Caspani; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown