New York orders hospitals to boost capacity by 50%, Washington names leader of COVID-19 response team + 27 other updates from the 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 20-23 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 (16,916 cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an emergency order March 23 mandating that all hospitals in the state increase their capacity by 50 percent and recommending that they double capacity if possible, to reach the 110,000-bed capacity he said New York needs.

To staff these additional beds, Mr. Cuomo said that the state has called on thousands of retired healthcare professionals to return to their jobs, and that he has issued an executive order requiring all registered nurses to "enlist."

He added that health insurers should not be focused on assessing claims for these increased numbers of clinicians: "We don't need them in the insurance business now; we would like them to help in hospitals," Mr. Cuomo said. "This is not about assessing insurance claims at this point, it's about saving lives."

2. On March 22, Mr. Cuomo approved four sites proposed by the federal government for the Army Corps to erect temporary hospitals. He called for construction to begin immediately.

3. The state is seeking to repurpose existing healthcare facilities to create more temporary COVID-19 testing and care sites. Mr. Cuomo announced that the state had signed a lease on March 21 for the Brooklyn Health Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare to provide up to 600 more beds for emergency use.

4. Mr. Cuomo asked for federal assistance to ensure states have access to necessary medical equipment such as masks and ventilators, saying, "The federal government should nationalize medical supply acquisition. The states simply cannot manage it."

5. On March 23, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared on CNN to echo Mr. Cuomo's plea for federal assistance in acquiring medical supplies. The city only has enough equipment to last one more week, he said, according to The New York Times.

"If we don't get the equipment, we're literally going to lose lives," Mr. de Blasio said. "We will get to a point where people can't be saved who could have been saved."

6. As the state's stay-at-home order went into effect at 8 p.m. on March 22, the governor's office released more information about the declaration, called New York State on PAUSE, Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone. Under the order, all nonessential employees must stay home; nonessential gatherings of any size are banned; and residents over the age of 70 or those who are immunocompromised must undergo more stringent precautions.

7. The state will begin testing existing drugs to treat COVID-19 on March 24, Mr. Cuomo announced. The federal government has allotted 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine and 750,000 doses of chloroquine, both typically used to treat malaria and inflammatory conditions, as well as 10,000 doses of the antibiotic Zithromax.

Washington (1,996 confirmed cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. President Donald Trump approved a request by Washington Gov. Jay Insle to declare a major disaster in Washington state. This approval unlocks federal assistance programs, such as crisis counseling, to help combat COVID-19 in the state. 

2. The governor appointed Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, MD, to oversee the state's COVID-19 healthcare response team. Dr. Bono is a senior fellow with the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory in Baltimore. She formerly was CEO and director for the Defense Health Agency, and she was the first female surgeon in the military to hold the rank of vice admiral. The appointment is effective immediately.

3. The National Guard will be deployed to help Washington fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ABC News

New Jersey (1,914 confirmed cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has mandated most residents to stay at home. Exceptions include residents who need to leave home to obtain essential goods or services, seek medical attention, visit family or close friends and go to work.

The executive order also bans all gatherings of individuals at social events and closes all nonessential retail businesses. The order lists essential businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and banks.

2. The governor has also required hospitals and federally qualified health centers to waive patient fees for testing and other diagnostic services for New Jersey residents who do not have health insurance.

3. The New Jersey government has launched a COVID-19 information website: covid19.nj.gov. The website offers most up-to-date information about the new coronavirus illness and the state's response. It includes information about services, such as food assistance and small business assistance, and a symptom checker.

4. New Jersey hospitals are working overtime to figure out ways to add operational capacity to its facilities, whether it means reopening closed hospitals or using college dorms, medical wards and nursing homes to care for COVID-19 patients, according to the Wall Street Journal. An analysis by Rutgers University-Camden (N.J.), shows that by mid-May, the state's hospitals will need 122,700 to 313,200 more beds than it has.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is examining how to add new wings to existing hospitals.

5. A drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Bergen County Community College in Paramus, N.J., closed after only 30 minutes March 22 after reaching capacity, according to WLNY-TV/ CBS New York. The site opened on March 20.

The state plans to open another drive-thru site testing site in Holmdel, N.J., March 23.

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

California (1,812 confirmed cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. California plans to expand bed capacity in the state by leasing two hospitals, one of which is currently shut down. The state will use $30 million in emergency coronavirus funding to lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles for three months. Both hospitals are owned by El Segundo, Calif.-based Verity Health System, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018.

2. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that allows the state to use retired workers to help respond to COVID-19. 

3. The executive order allows the state to increase capacity to care for COVID-19 patients by waiving licensing and staffing requirements for clinics, mobile healthcare units and adult day healthcare facilities.

4. At Gov. Newsom's request, President Donald Trump has deployed the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship, to Los Angeles "immediately" in an effort to bolster the state's COVID-19 response, according to Business Insider. 

5. The National Guard will be deployed to help California fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ABC News

6. President Trump approved a request from Gov. Newsom to declare a major disaster in California. The order makes crisis counseling available to residents in the state. Mr. Newsom requested the declaration March 22. 

Illinois (1,050 cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order that took effect at 5 p.m. on March 21. The Illinois order requires all nonessential workers to stay home, halts all evictions and bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

2. Mr. Pritzker said during a CNN appearance on March 22 that Illinois is having to compete with other states for medical supplies, including personal protection equipment such as gowns and masks, due to a lack of federal support.

Illinois has only received about one-quarter of the equipment it requested from the federal government, the governor said.

3. State legislators and the Illinois Health and Hospitals Association have asked the governor to reopen several shuttered hospitals to be used as temporary coronavirus testing and treatment sites. They recommend reopening Melrose Park-based Westlake Hospital, Blue Island-based Metro South Medical Center and Springfield-based Vibra Hospital, according to the Chicago Tribune.

4. The mayor of Blue Island, a suburb of Chicago, shut down the local police department and suspended all local police activities after a department employee tested positive for COVID-19, NBC Chicago reports. In the meantime, Cook County Sheriff's deputies and state police will patrol the area and respond to emergency calls, the report said.

State Rep. Bob Rita criticized Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas' "unilateral" and "rash" decision, according to NBC Chicago. 

The governor urged local governments to "act responsibly" and follow guidance from the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health.

Michigan (1,038 confirmed cases as of 7:48 a.m. CDT March 23)

1. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a stay-at-home order, directing residents to only leave home in very limited circumstances, such as to grocery shop or receive healthcare services. The order begins at 12:01 a.m. March 24 and will stay in place for the next three weeks. 

The order requires businesses to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are “not necessary to sustain or protect life,” and bans businesses from making their workers leave their homes.

2. The governor ordered the temporary closure of nonessential personal care businesses, including hair and nail shops, tanning and massage spas and tattoo parlors, since all of these businesses require customers to be within 6 feet of each other. The order took effect March 22 and will stay in place through April 13.

3. The governor signed executive orders prohibiting evictions until April 17 and extending the deadline for Michigan residents to pay back taxes and avoid foreclosures of their properties. The tax foreclosure deadline was moved from March 31 to May 29.

4. On March 17, the governor temporarily lifted regulatory requirements on hospitals and care facilities to speed the process of adding space and more care facilities. He also gave the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs more flexibility in decisions about licensing, registration and workflow requirements.

5. The governor extended the date on which restaurants and bars are allowed to reopen, according to the Lansing State Journal. The initially were ordered to close March 16 and told they could reopen March 30. The reopening date is now April 13.

More articles on public health:
Flu has sickened 38 million, CDC says
Federal government using Walmart parking lots to test healthcare workers for COVID-19
Providence donates $500K to bolster coronavirus response efforts

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