New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo painted a dire picture Sunday of the state’s fight against coronavirus, saying he expects a “wave” of patients to overwhelm hospitals there.
“Assume the wave breaks at a higher level than the hospital system can accommodate,” Cuomo said at a press conference.
“I believe that’s what’s going to happen.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, called for increased testing for coronavirus, more social distancing, and authorization from President Donald Trump to activate the Army Corps of Engineers to help build medical facilities.
“We are looking at a new war that nobody has seen before,” said Cuomo.
“We have never fought a virus before like this with this potential consequence.”
Cuomo said that 729 people have tested positive in New York as of Sunday for coronavirus, the most of any state. Of those, 19 percent, or 137, are in the hospital. Sixty-five are in intensive care units, and 47 require intubation.
At least 59 people have died across the U.S. from the virus, including three so far in New York. Health experts have said that the number of coronavirus cases will rise dramatically over the next few weeks, as testing improves, and as more people become infected with the virus.
“It’s going to get worse,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, an expert on infectious disease who is on the White House coronavirus task force, told Congress on Wednesday.
Cuomo said that the biggest concern is the lack of ICU hospital beds in the state. He said that ICU beds are equipped with ventilators, which are needed to deal with viruses that hit the respiratory system, as coronavirus does.
Only around 600 of the state’s 3,000 ICU beds are currently available for use, Cuomo said.
“The overwhelming crush is going to be on the ICU beds.”
Cuomo also discussed the trajectory of the spread of coronavirus, which public health experts have dubbed “the curve.”
The goal, Cuomo said, is to “flatten” the curve — or slow down the transmission of coronavirus — in order to blunt the impact on the medical system, and hospitals.
“The curve is a wave, and the wave could break on the hospital system, the governor said.
“If you have too high a number of people sick at the same time, when they descend on the hospital system, you will overwhelm the hospital system. That’s the issue here.”
Cuomo said he, like other state and local leaders, is grappling with whether to mandate closures of non-essential businesses, such as bars and restaurants. The mayor of Hoboken, N.J. on Saturday ordered bars to close, and mayors in other cities have put restrictions on crowd sizes allowed to gather at businesses and other venues.
Cuomo stopped short Sunday of saying he will order them shut down entirely, but he said that he is not taking the option off the table.
“I will get more aggressive on the mandatory regulations,” Cuomo said, urging proprietors to “voluntarily close down your bar, your restaurant, your gymnasium.”
“If nobody does it, then we can take more actions.”
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