Governor to take ventilators for NYC as hospitals buckle

Coronavirus

NEW YORK (AP) — With coronavirus deaths surging in New York, the governor announced Friday he will use his authority to seize ventilators and protective gear from private hospitals and companies that aren’t using them — one of the most aggressive steps yet in the U.S. to relieve severe shortages of equipment needed to fight the scourge.

“If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He added that he will eventually return the equipment or compensate the owners.

The executive order he said he would sign is aimed at the kind of shortages around the world that authorities say have caused health care workers to fall sick and forced doctors in Europe to make life-or-death decisions about which patients get a breathing machine. Cuomo has said New York could run out of ventilators next week.

STATEMENT FROM SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE GOVERNOR RICH AZZOPARDI

“In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together. While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now – it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and the increase in upstate. It is essential that we all help each other and the Governor is asking upstate hospitals to loan 20 percent of their unused ventilators to struggling downstate hospitals.

“Ventilators literally save lives. They will be returned or reimbursed to those hospitals.

“Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the Governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help.

“We are not upstate or downstate we are one state and we act that way.”

The number of the people infected in the U.S. surpassed a quarter-million and the death toll climbed past 6,600, with New York state alone accounting for more than 2,900 dead, a surge of over 560 in just one day. Most of the dead are in New York City, where hospitals are getting swamped with patients. About 15,000 people were hospitalized statewide, most of them in the city.

“We have been watching the situation in New York City and we have an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in other parts of New York,” Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge. We stand together opposing the Governor’s very dangerous and reckless action. He is leaving our communities in a terrible position which will cost lives.”

REPS. REED, STEFANIK;STATE SENATORS ORTT, JACOBS, HELMING, FUNKE, AKSHAR, O’MARA, AND STATE ASSEMBLYMEN PALMESANO, FRIEND, GOODELL, KOLB AND ASSEMBLYWOMAN BYRNES

The move by Cuomo came as the outbreak snapped the United States’ record-breaking hiring streak of nearly 10 years. The U.S. government said employers slashed over 700,000 jobs last month, bringing a swift end to the nation’s 50-year-low unemployment rate.

The true picture, though, is far worse, because the government figures do not include the last two weeks, when nearly 10 million thrown-out-of-work Americans applied for unemployment benefits.

Worldwide, confirmed infections surged past 1 million and deaths topped 56,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say both numbers are seriously undercounted because of the lack of testing, mild cases that were missed and governments that are underplaying the crisis.

Europe’s three worst-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — surpassed 30,000 dead, or over half of the global toll. The crisis there was seen as a frightening portent for places like New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, where bodies are being loaded by forklift into refrigerated trucks outside hospitals.

Shortages of such things as masks, gowns and ventilators have led to fierce competition among buyers from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

A regional leader in Paris described the scramble to find masks a “worldwide treasure hunt,” and the French prime minister said he is “fighting hour by hour” to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep COVID-19 patients alive.

Cuomo, who has complained in recent days that states are being forced to compete against each other for vital equipment in eBay-like bidding wars, called for a coordinated national approach that would send supplies and people to different areas as their needs peak.

More than 1,200 miles south, the situation grew more dire by the day in Louisiana, where more than 10,000 people have tested positive and deaths climbed to at least 370, up nearly 20 percent from the day before. Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that the hard-hit New Orleans area is projected to run out of ventilators by Tuesday and hospital beds five days later.

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge has gone from one unit dedicated to coronavirus patients to seven. Nurse Christen Hyde said nurses call family members twice a day to update them on how their family members are doing, in some cases delivering bleak news.

“To have to call a family member and tell them that their family member is not doing well and they are probably going to be passing soon is just devastating,” said Hyde, who has had four patients die.

As for the patients, “the last thing that they see is us telling them that they are going to have a tube placed down their throat to help them breathe,” she said. “It’s awful. It’s horrible. It’s really affected me.”

In Florida, hundreds of passengers on a cruise ship where four people died were finally being allowed to disembark after a days-long standoff. More than a dozen critically ill patients were taken to hospitals, while people healthy enough to travel were taken to the airport for chartered flights home.

Some glimmers of hope emerged that Italy, with about 14,700 dead, as well as Spain and France might be flattening their infection curves and nearing or even passing their peaks in daily deaths.

Still, “the work is extremely tough and heavy,” said Philippe Montravers, an anesthesiologist in Paris. “We’ve had doctors, nurses, caregivers who got sick, infected … but who have come back after recovering. It’s a bit like those World War I soldiers who were injured and came back to fight.”

France canceled its high school exit exam known as the Baccalaureat, a first in the 212-year history of the test.

Spain reported 932 new deaths, down slightly from the record it hit a day earlier. The carnage most certainly included large numbers of elderly who authorities admit are not getting access to the country’s limited breathing machines, which are being used first on healthier, younger patients. More than half of Spain’s death toll of nearly 11,000 has come in the last seven days alone.

In a vast exhibition center in Madrid that was hastily converted into a 1,300-bed field hospital, bed No. 01.30 held patient Esteban Pinaredo, age 87.

“I’m good, I love you,” Pinaredo told his family via Skype. “I will run away as soon as I can.”

The facility’s organizer, Antonio Zapatero, said Spain’s nationwide lockdown must be maintained.

“Otherwise, this is what you are facing,” he said, pointing at the rows of beds.

In some places in Europe, officials began talking tentatively about how to lift lockdowns that have staved off the total collapse of the health systems but have also battered economies.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in her first video message after emerging from two weeks of home quarantine, urged Germans to stay home over Easter, saying it would be irresponsible for her to set a date now for loosening restrictions that include a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

With forecast glorious spring weather likely to tempt stir-crazy families out of lockdown this weekend, the message across the continent remained: “Stay home.” Paris police set up roadblocks outside the city to stop those trying to escape for Easter vacation.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive last week, said in a video message on Twitter that he is feeling better but still has a fever and will remain in isolation.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause pneumonia. The World Health Organization said this week that 95% of the deaths in Europe were of people over 60.

___

Villenueve reported from Albany, New York. Leicester reported from Le Pecq, France. Associated Press writers around the world contributed.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

COVID-19 Testing Vs. Confirmed Cases by State
Mobile Apps DMB_1503428499636.png

Trending Now