New York state will not be able to handle the influx of patients who need hospitalization in the coming weeks without help from the Army Corps of Engineers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press briefing on Sunday.
New York now has 729 confirmed coronavirus cases, a number that has increased in recent days as testing has expanded. But Cuomo is focused on the hospitalization rate, which is now at 19 percent of those cases.
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The state has roughly 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds with ventilators. Of those ICU beds, 80 percent are currently occupied.
Cuomo acknowledged the resources to expand hospitals by converting buildings will be one beyond New York's capabilities.
"You can't find available ventilators no matter how much you are willing to pay, because there's been a global run on ventilators," he said.
The governor compared the growing hospitalizations to a wave that would engulf the current health care system.
"This is the issue here," he said. "That has always been the issue."
Cuomo outlined his call for aid from the Army, as well as a push to expand testing in a New York Times op/ed published on Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, Cuomo outlined additional steps the state is taking to achieve social distancing and slow the spread of the virus.
- State workers from Rockland County and south deemed non-essential will be asked to work from home starting Monday.
- Private businesses are being asked to shut down or have their employees work from home.
- Enforcement of the order to limit capacity in crowded spaces, including restaurants and bars, is expected to increase as people in some areas continued to flock to this areas over the weekend.
- Mandatory steps to limit the time people spend in crowded areas may be taken, Cuomo said, as the spread worsens.
- Jim Malatras, a longtime Cuomo aide and the current president of SUNY Empire, will be working with county executives in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester to develop a plan that would mitigate the effect of closing schools.
Cuomo is yet to embrace a statewide schools closure order. But in recent days he has made it easier for school districts to close, including a suspension of the requirement they remain open for 180 days to receive state funding.
Closing schools could put a burden on people who need to be at work right now, Cuomo said, pointing to police, firefighters and medical workers.
At the same time, a plan needs to be developed for students who rely on schools to offer meals during the day.
"We can't have 1199 health care workers staying home," Cuomo said, referring to the powerful health care union.
But soon after Cuomo's press conference ended on Sunday, the union's president, George Gresham, urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to close schools in New York City.