NEW YORK (WETM/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought to add another 4,000 temporary hospital beds across New York City and ordered schools closed statewide for two more weeks on Friday, warning of hard days ahead amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In response to the rising cases, Gov. Cuomo also put together a surge healthcare force for the state—calling on qualified healthcare professionals, including retirees, to enlist. So far, over 62,000 medical staff have enlisted.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke to 18 News about how the state plans on further combating the virus.
“We are going to continue on the path that we’ve been on since the very beginning,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “Which is sounding the alarm that we need to make sure that we will have the proper capacity of hospital beds and ventilators to handle what we expect is going to be a major surge in individuals needing that intensive care.”
There are already more than 6,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York, with almost 1,600 in intensive care. The state has logged a nation-high of 519 deaths and has more than 44,000 confirmed cases.
“The coronavirus, as you can see what is happening in New York City, is striking people of all ages,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “It is a very disturbing pattern, but we’ve predicted this all along and the governor is charting a path forward to make sure that we do the very best we can. And the end game is simply to save as many lives as possible.”
As Gov. Cuomo expects New York’s death toll to rise, he is calling on the federal government to send more ventilators to the state. However, President Donald Trump expressed doubts about the depth of the crisis in the city’s hospital system and its urgent need for more ventilators.
President Trump on Thursday told Fox’s Sean Hannity, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
Cuomo reiterated Friday that the need for ventilators could be as high as 30,000.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Cuomo said. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But I don’t operate here on opinion. I operate on facts, and data, and numbers, and projections.”
Referring to New York’s current situation as “the tip of the spear in the crisis,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said President Trump is incorrect and that the state is in desperate need of more ventilators.
“We know that we are going to hit the worst of this literally in 20-21 days in New York City, and then we can be also facing the hotspots or pockets of areas where there’s intense need for more hospitalization, even Upstate New York,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “We don’t need that many today. We’ve never been talking about today. We knew that the worst is yet to come.”
Meanwhile, President Trump signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law, after swift and near-unanimous action by Congress this week. The package will support businesses, rush resources to overburdened health care providers and help struggling families during the deepening coronavirus epidemic.
The legislation will also speed government payments of $1,200 to most Americans and increase jobless benefits for millions of people thrown out of work. Businesses big and small will get loans, grants and tax breaks.
“There will be immediate relief in the pockets of New Yorkers and that’s important, that is some encouragement,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “It’s a good relief package in terms of individuals.”
However, Lt. Gov. Hochul said the state is getting a fraction of what other states are getting and the budget is going to be devastated.
“We did not plan for this budget-wise, nobody could have anticipated this,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “And that’s the tough decisions that we’re going to have to make going forward.”
As Gov. Cuomo expects New York to hit the apex of the virus in 21 days, Lt. Gov. Hochul said they are preparing Upstate New York for what’s to come.
“I’ll tell you right now, one thing we’re not going back on is our focus on the recovery of the Upstate economy. We’ve made too much progress, from Elmira and Corning and Binghamton and everywhere else,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “We’re going to make sure we protect the investments we’ve made, the jobs that we’ve already created, the small businesses that are now populating our downtowns. As an Upstater, I’m going to make sure that that effort continues as soon as humanly possible.”