New York needs 30K ventilators ASAP, feds missing magnitude of problem, governor says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up his pleas for federal assistance in the state’s efforts to triage and treat more than 23,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, a number that he said is now doubling every three days.

The governor's remarks came during his news conference March 24. As the number of cases continues to increase exponentially, he said, so too have the number of needed beds and equipment. The state now needs at least 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds, up from previous estimates of 110,000 beds. Additionally, Mr. Cuomo predicted that that state could reach the apex in its number of cases within 14 to 21 days.

“We must dramatically increase hospital capacity to meet that apex, and we must do it very quickly,” he said.

Most critical is the state’s need for more ventilators. New York now has 7,000 ventilators, but needs 30,000 more, the governor said. In the meantime, the state is experimenting with using one ventilator for two patients at once.

Increased federal assistance will be the only truly effective solution, Mr. Cuomo said, calling on the HHS to deploy its stockpile of 20,000 ventilators to New York and chastising President Donald Trump for failing to use the federal Defense Production Act to its fullest extent. The law allows the federal government to demand that private manufacturers produce more equipment as quickly as possible; The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Trump will use the law for the first time on March 24 to procure about 60,000 testing kits.

Though the Trump administration announced on March 23 that it is sending 400 ventilators from the federal stockpile to New York City, Mr. Cuomo said, “You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? You are missing the magnitude of the problem, and the problem is defined by the magnitude.”

Instead, he recommended that all 20,000 ventilators be sent to New York, which has 10 times more cases than New Jersey, the next hardest-hit state. From there, the equipment can be transported around the U.S. on an as-needed basis.

“I will take personal responsibility for transferring the 20,000 ventilators anywhere in the country they want once we are past our apex. But don’t leave them in that stockpile, saying you want to wait to see where they are needed in the country. Address that region, then move onto the next,” Mr. Cuomo said.

To further increase capacity, Mr. Cuomo said he plans to speak to every hospital administrator in the state, all of whom are now required to increase capacity by at least 50 percent. The state has also established several temporary facilities, including in Manhattan’s 1.8 million-square-foot Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and is looking into converting hotel rooms and college dormitories into hospital rooms or isolation spaces.

“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need,” he said.

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