New York gets 1st Army field hospital, California reports COVID-19 testing backlog + 25 other updates from the 6 hardest-hit states

President Donald Trump is pushing more action on the COVID-19 pandemic to the state level.  Below are key updates from March 25-26 from the states hardest hit by the coronavirus:

Editor's Note: This is not an exhaustive list of health measures being taken by the states.

New York (33,033 cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26)

1. In his daily news conference March 26, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his "disappointment" with the $2 trillion federal stimulus package's impact on state and city governments. With New York projected to lose between $10 billion and $15 billion this year due to the pandemic, the $5 billion earmarked in the relief plan for New York’s COVID-19-related spending "does absolutely nothing for us in terms of lost revenue to the state," he said.

"I find it irresponsible; I find it reckless," Mr. Cuomo said of the stimulus plan. "This was the time to put politics aside and partisanship aside. This is the time for government officials to stop making excuses and just do your job. We’re one nation."

2. As a result, the state’s budget plan, which is due April 1, will not only feature decreased initial revenue projections, but will also include space for further adjustments throughout the year based on actual revenues collected, the governor said.

3. An army field hospital deployed by the U.S. Defense Department is scheduled to arrive in New York City on March 26, bringing more than 200 medical workers to the region, The New York Times reports. The field hospital will have 11 ventilators and will allow the city to care for about 250 more patients.

4. The governor's office has partnered with Microsoft, Google Cloud and other tech leaders to recruit people and organizations to join "technology SWAT teams" that will develop and deploy IT solutions to aid in the state's COVID-19 response.

5. To prepare for the continued surge of coronavirus-related deaths, New York City's medical examiner has initiated construction of a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, NBC New York reports.

6. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered more than two dozen blocks on some of the city's main thoroughfares to close from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning March 27 to give residents more recreational areas and reduce crowding in public parks, according to The New York Times. Police officers will enforce social-distancing rules in each area.

Read more about other measures New York took this week here.

New Jersey (4,407 confirmed cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26)

1. New Jersey's goal is to increase acute care bed capacity in the state by 2,360 in the next few weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy said at a media briefing March 25. There are 18,433 acute care beds, including 2,000 beds for critical care patients. New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said that COVID-19 trends are tracking in line with New York, which is expected to hit its peak in the next 14 to 21 days.

"Our exponential growth rate, based on the number of positive cases reported daily, is similar in northern New Jersey," said Ms. Persichilli.

The state is also closely monitoring mental health patients at psychiatric facilities, Ms. Persichilli said. Four staff members and one patient among the state's four psychiatric facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.

2. The governor reiterated that the state's social-distancing directives "are not polite suggestions" and will be enforced.

The governor also said that "we completely and utterly reject some pockets — I might add happily small pockets — that are suggesting around the country, and mercifully I’ve not heard much of this in New Jersey, that certain persons are expendable. The fact of the matter is, everyone is indispensable."

The governor's statement came a day after President Donald Trump said he wanted the nation "opened up and just raring to go by Easter," CNN reported, which is not enough time to curb the virus' spread, according to some experts.

3. The governor ordered all child care centers in New Jersey to certify by March 27 that they will serve only as emergency child care centers for the children of essential workers. Centers that do not certify must close by April 1, the order mandates.

Essential workers include healthcare and law enforcement personnel as well as staff working for establishments that provide essential social services.

4. New Jersey is increasing the number of drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers in the state, according to ABC7 Eyewitness News. A drive-thru facility for Passaic County residents opened March 25, and one for Essex County will open March 26.

Read more about other measures New Jersey took this week here.

California (3,169 confirmed cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT on March 26)

1. During a news briefing March 25, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the state has already delivered 24.2 million N95 masks to hospitals statewide and secured an additional 100 million N95 masks. "This is good news for the healthcare workers who are demanding more and deserve more [protective gear]," the governor said. Still, he warned that the additional masks may not be enough to meet the state's needs. 

2. The governor also said the state is working to better configure beds inside the USNS Mercy, the Navy hospital ship coming to Los Angeles to help California's COVID-19 response. Although the ship has 1,000 beds, many of them are bunk beds, which is "not ideal," he said. The total number of beds provided by the ship will be "substantially" lower than 1,000, the governor said.

3. As of March 24, 66,800 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in California, the governor said. But "tens of thousands" of patients are still waiting for those results to be analyzed because of a backlog, he said.

4. The state has a task force dedicated to COVID-19 testing logistics, including acquiring more tests, reducing the testing backlog and determining whether new tests or technologies can deliver faster results, the governor said.

5. The governor urged the entire state to comply with the stay-at-home order to defeat the pandemic.  "These orders are real, they are bipartisan orders, they are not rural or urban orders, they are not Democratic or Republican orders," Mr. Newsom said. "[Complying] halfway is no way."

6. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Business Insider March 25 that residents should expect the stay-at-home order to last until May. "I think this is at least two months," he said. "And be prepared for longer."

Washington (2,600 confirmed cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26)

1. Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has ordered health insurers to speed up or waive prior authorization requirements for inpatients being transferred to long-term care facilities or home healthcare settings in order to free up more bed space in hospitals. 

2. Washington has received a federal shipment of face masks and gloves, according to The Seattle Times. The state is now ready to distribute 1.6 million masks and 12 million gloves to healthcare workers across the state. 

3. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order suspending for 30 days some statutory requirements in the state's laws about open public meetings and public records. The governor said that waiving some of the requirements will help prevent the gathering of people and slow the spread of COVID-19.

"As life changes daily during this COVID-19 outbreak, we continue to look at ways to adjust to this new reality," Mr. Inslee said. "These proclamations will help ensure that people still get the information, access and tools they need. These are unprecedented times, and we continue to make necessary adjustments to help Washingtonians."  

Michigan (2,295 confirmed cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26)

1. In a news briefing March 26, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pleaded with residents to comply with the stay-at-home order she signed Monday. "There is no cure and no vaccine [for this disease]," she said. "The only tool we do have? To stay home."

Michigan's stay-at-home order is among the most aggressive in the country, she said, but it will save lives.

Ms. Whitmer also said she has sent a request to President Donald Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for the state, which would help the state provide more meals, rental assistance, counseling and mental health services and increase hospital capacity.

2. The governor said the state received a shipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, but it is not nearly enough. The allotment for one particular hospital was not enough to last even one shift, the governor said. The state is working 24/7 to gather more supplies, working with private businesses in and outside the state and requesting the help of Michigan residents.

3. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, MD, said that the state is seeing an exponential growth in cases, especially in Southeast Michigan. Many hospitals in that area are at or near capacity, prompting the state to implement a load-balancing plan. This involves asking hospitals outside of Southeast Michigan to serve as relief hospitals and allow patients to be transferred to their facility from hospitals already at capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

4. The governor signed an order enabling pharmacists to provide emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days' worth of supply, according to M Live.

"Residents who are limiting their time in public places and practicing social distancing shouldn't have to fear running low on their prescription drugs during these trying times," the governor said.

The order only applies to noncontrolled substances. But it also includes a clause allowing pharmacists to dispense drugs related to COVID-19 treatment, "pursuant to protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institute of Health."

The order went into effect March 25 and ends April 22, but it may be renewed.  

Read more about other measures Michigan took this week here.

Florida (1,978 cases as of 7:25 a.m. CDT March 26)

1. Amid an uptick in Florida visitors who have fled areas heavily affected by the pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order March 24 mandating a two-week quarantine period for travelers who have arrived in the state from the New York region in the last three weeks. People who recently flew in from New York will also have to report names of anyone they have come into close contact with in Florida.

2. Florida continues to expand its drive-thru testing. A site opened March 25 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, and it will administer 250 tests per day to first responders, healthcare professionals and people 65 and older who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, ClickOrlando reports.

Also on March 25, Hillsborough County officials opened a test site at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raymond James stadium. Testing is only available for those who are showing symptoms and have called ahead for prescreening. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the site tested 198 people on its first day.

3. The governor said this week that he would not enact a stay-at-home mandate, for fear of harming the state's economy and putting too many jobs at risk,the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

4. Despite the governor's stance, several counties and cities in Florida have issued stay-at-home and other protective orders. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings issued a stay-at-home order that will take effect 11 p.m. on March 26 and last through April 9. Pinellas County, in the Tampa Bay region, also issued a weeklong "safer at home" directive that will begin 11:27 a.m. March 26.

Miami's five commissioners met via video conference March 25 and unanimously voted to enact a 10 p.m. curfew beginning March 27. Police will have the right to stop, question and arrest anyone who violates the curfew. General exceptions will be made for people traveling to or from work, seeking medical services or walking their dogs near their homes, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

More articles on public health:
Georgia hospital worker with COVID-19 found dead in her home
Is ventilator-sharing a good idea? Pulmonology experts weigh in
'We're going to be coding dead people': Hospitals consider do-not-resuscitate order for all COVID-19 patients

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