There’s no question that New York state needs 30,000 ventilators to battle the coronavirus epidemic, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The experts seem to agree.
During his daily press conference on Saturday, Cuomo explained that the state is working to build stockpiles of ventilators, N95 masks, PPE equipment for medical professionals and hospital beds in advance of an anticipated “apex” of the outbreak.
Citing public health and medical experts he’s consulted over the weeks, the governor anticipates that coronavirus cases could reach that apex in 14 to 21 days. That number could change depending on the case load in the days ahead.
The state is scrambling to prepare for that peak — because, Cuomo stated, it would be too late to get what’s needed once it arrives.
Not everything the state has acquired in recent weeks is in use today. Cuomo noted that the 4,000 ventilators the state secured from the federal government is on reserve at the moment; the demand has not yet presented itself to bring the devices into service.
“We’re not at that critical need,” Cuomo said. “The models say we’re 14 to 21 days from that apex when the curve hits the highest point. But when it hits that point, it is too late to try to acquire what you need. [So] acquire what you need now, that’s the concept of putting together a stockpile.”
One challenge the state’s facing in building its stockpile, Cuomo noted, is something the 49 other states are also experiencing: competition with each other. The states are going to the same vendors for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies and driving up the price because of the demand.
Cuomo’s calling on the federal government to step in and create a national consortium to purchase supplies and distribute them to the states based on need — or allow the states to organize among each other to help control prices and distribution.
Other notes from the governor’s press conference this morning…
- The state Health Department is mandating that individual health systems across the Empire State work with each other to address critical needs. This would encourage overcrowded hospitals to send patients to medical centers where beds are available, or allow available physicians and nurses to relieve exhausted medical teams at other sites.
- President Trump, in a conversation with Cuomo Saturday, approved four new “overflow” temporary hospital sites across New York City, at The College of Staten Island, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Queens’ Aqueduct Racetrack and the New York Expo Center in the Bronx. This would provide a combined 4,000 additional hospital beds.
- The USS Comfort hospital ship is due to arrive in Manhattan on Monday, bringing 1,000 hospital beds and medical personnel.
- The temporary hospitals at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan are due to open on Monday as well.
- The state has begun drug therapy trials on 1,100 coronavirus patients using hydroxychloroquine and zithromax. These trials are being conducted “on a large scale” at New York City hospitals, Cuomo added.
- The FDA has approved a new antibody test that the state Health Department will use to extract antibodies from patients who have recovered from coronavirus infection. It’s hoped the antibodies can be used on active coronavirus patients to help their bodies kill the virus.
- More than 600 hospital beds are being created at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island, Westchester Square in the Bronx and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. These beds would be exclusively used for COVID-19 patients.
- Over 17,000 New Yorkers were tested for coronavirus on Friday, and the state reported 7,681 new positive cases. The death toll rose from 519 to 728.
- However, Cuomo reported, that the number of patients in intensive care and the rate of hospitalization dropped over the last two days. “The overall trend is still up, but you can argue that the trend is slowing,” the governor said. “I say, don’t argue, follow the numbers, get more numbers. Whatever the numbers say, that drives the policy.”