40,000 people have signed up for New York's surge healthcare force, governor says

New York is creating a surge healthcare force to help support care for the huge surge in COVID-19 patients in the state, and 40,000 have signed up to join it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news briefing March 25.

The state government asked retired healthcare workers and those who may no longer be in a direct patient care occupation to join the new healthcare force. The people who have signed up include 2,265 physicians, 2,409 nurse practitioners and 938 physician assistants.

"That is a big, big deal," he said. "You can create beds, you can buy the equipment, [but] you have to have the staff. You have to have the staff for those additional beds which are not now in the hospital system."

Mr. Cuomo said that the state has 30,811 COVID-19 cases, of which 3,805 are hospitalized and 888 are in the intensive care unit.

Projection show that New York hospitals may need 140,000 people to handle all the cases coming in, but they only have 53,000 beds. The state predicts it will have its greatest number of people need hospital admission in 21 days. The governor reiterated that he has asked hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 50 percent. Some hospitals have been asked to increase capacity by 100 percent, he said.

"I believe some hospitals will actually try to [double their capacity]," he said. "I encourage them to try to do that, as impossible as it sounds. If some of them do that, and I believe some will, that would bring us to 85,000 beds."

The state is also looking at other sites to increase bed capacity, including university dormitories, which could add as many as 29,000 beds.

The state also is gathering resources for healthcare workers, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.

For the foreseeable future, the state has acquired enough personal protective equipment for workers in all hospitals statewide dealing with the pandemic, the governor said.

But, the state is still running short on ventilators, with only 4,000 in its hospitals currently. The state has purchased another 7,000, but in total, New York hospitals still need about 30,000, he said. The state government is still shopping for ventilators and will explore splitting ventilator use, that is, use one ventilator for two patients at one time.

"Italy has had to do this because they were forced to do it," he said. "I want to study it and see if we can do it a little smarter."

The governor also said he has suggested a "rolling deployment" strategy to the White House, which would involve moving equipment, staff and resources from hot spot to hot spot around the country, before each region hits its critical point of need.

New York currently has the most need for these resources among all U.S. states, and Mr. Cuomo said he suggested bringing critical resources to New York first and then deploying it to regions around the country as they start seeing their numbers increase.

"I said to the White House, send us the equipment, the personnel, and as soon as we get past our critical moment, we will deploy [it] to the next hot spot," he said. "I personally guarantee it."

But there is hope for New York. The projection models suggest that density control measures, such as ordering residents to stay at home, is helping, Mr. Cuomo said. On Sunday, the projections showed hospitalizations were doubling every two days. On Monday, it showed hospitalizations doubling every 3.4 days, and on Tuesday, it showed hospitalizations doubling every 4.7 days.

"This is a good sign," he said. "Not sure if it's accurate, or will hold, but the arrows are headed in the right direction."

More articles on public health:
Italian physicians urge other nations to treat more patients at home
How Americans are responding to coronavirus pandemic: 5 survey findings
Loss of smell may be COVID-19 symptom, physicians warn




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