New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would seek federal assistance for four new emergency hospitals as the number of deaths statewide from the new coronavirus spiked 35% in a day to more than 500.
The new sites — one each in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island — would provide an additional 4,000 beds, Cuomo said on Friday from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed emergency hospital that will open Monday. Also that day, the U.S. Navy ship Comfort is expected to arrive in New York Harbor ahead of schedule, which will provide an additional 1,000 beds, Cuomo said.
Cuomo has said the state has enough ventilators and medical equipment such as masks and gowns for the immediate future, despite reports of hospital shortages and rationing. On Friday, Cuomo again insisted current demand is adequately covered and that the state is stockpiling additional supplies for a potential peak of infections three weeks from now.
“We don’t need them yet,” Cuomo said. “We need them for the apex. We don’t need them today because we’re not at capacity today.”
The governor says the state needs 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 for intensive care that have ventilators. Before the outbreak, the state had about 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds. President Donald Trump on Thursday questioned whether New York would need that much equipment.
New York has the most cases among U.S. states. Positive tests topped 44,000 on Friday, up more than 7,000 from Thursday. More than 25,000 cases are in New York City. Cuomo has ordered hospitals to increase their bed capacity by at least 50% and hotels and college dorms are being converted into medical facilities.
Cuomo said on Friday that he would keep the state’s schools closed for an additional two weeks, at which time the situation will be re-assessed.
“Is there an intrusion on daily life? Yes. Is there an intrusion on movement? Yes. Is there an intrusion on the economy? Yes,” he said. “But what is on the other side of the scale is literally saving lives.”
The governor also said the state would revise its business-closing order to include most construction workers. Construction had been included in the essential services that were to remain in operation. That included workers building luxury residential buildings, who could still be seen in the structures throughout New York, despite reports that some of them had begun falling ill.
The designation of what is considered an “essential business” has evolved throughout the crisis. Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said attention will be devoted to projects “critical to first responders and health-care professionals.” These projects must still ensure workers maintain social distancing in elevators, entryways and exits, as well as for meal purposes. Sites that violate the rule will face fines of up to $10,000 per violation, according to the state.
“It will be our priority to ensure that these construction sites operate with heightened safety protocols in place in order to protect the members of the Building Trades working on these projects,” LaBarbera said.
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