Cuomo Orders Shift In Ventilators To Overwhelmed Hospitals

Associated Press
April 03, 2020 - 1:47 pm

FILE - In this March 31, 2020 file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the USTA Indoor Training Center where a 350-bed temporary hospital will be built in New York. De Blasio is calling for a national enlistment program for doctors and nurses, on Friday, April 3, to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases in New York and other places around the country. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

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NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would order the redistribution of critically needed ventilators. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a national enlistment program for doctors and nurses. And the coronavirus outbreak picked up speed with more deaths and more hospitalizations.

The latest developments in New York:

VENTILATOR REDEPLOYMENT

Cuomo said Friday he will order the redistribution of hundreds of ventilators to hospitals overwhelmed with critical coronavirus patients amid alarming increases in outbreak-related deaths and hospitalizations.

New York state tallied its biggest daily jump yet in deaths— up 562 to 2,935. Almost 15,000 people were hospitalized.

“You have more deaths, you have more people coming into hospitals than any other night,” a weary sounding Cuomo told a state Capitol news briefing.

New York City hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients, and officials fear they will soon run out of breathing machines for intensive care patients. Cuomo said his executive order will allow the state to redeploy excess ventilators and protective equipment from hospitals and other institutions.

“I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators,” Cuomo said.

National Guard members will pick up ventilators across the state. Institutions that give up equipment will get it back or be reimbursed, he said.

The announcement from the Democratic governor quickly exposed geographic tensions within the state. Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik said she’s concerned the order would shift ventilators downstate from places like her district in rural northern New York.

“Our rural hospitals are already very limited in resources and we must ensure upstate New York’s needs for testing supplies and ventilators are fully met,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement.

The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents over 160 hospitals and health systems around New York and in other states, said Cuomo was "pursuing lifesaving measures in real time during an unprecedented public health emergency."

“We know the door swings both ways — any institution that receives a ventilator will more than reciprocate when the virus peaks elsewhere,” said GNYHA president Kenneth E. Raske in a prepared statement.

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HOSPITAL SHIP

The Pentagon said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals.

Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side.

The 1,000-bed hospital ship docked off Manhattan on Monday and had just a handful of patients this week.

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NATIONAL PLAN

De Blasio called Friday for a national enlistment program for doctors and nurses to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases in New York and other places around the country where virus cases are straining existing health care systems.

“Next week in New York City is going to be very tough — next week in New York City and Detroit and New Orleans and a lot of other places,” de Blasio said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” “And unless the military is fully mobilized and we create something we’ve never had before, which is some kind of national enlistment of medical personnel moved to the most urgent needs in the country constantly, if we don’t have that we’re going to see hospitals simply unable to handle so many people who could be saved."

De Blasio said on CNN that the country should be on a wartime footing to meet the coronavirus threat. “We’re fighting a war against an invisible enemy that is increasingly taking the lives of Americans in vast numbers,” he said.

De Blasio first broached the idea of enlisting civilian health care workers Thursday but did not explain how such a program might work.

The new virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with chronic health problems, it can cause more severe illness and can be fatal.

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FUNERAL HOMES SEE STRAIN

Funeral homes in New York and around the globe are in crisis as demand surges amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Funeral directors are being squeezed on one side by inundated hospitals trying to offload bodies and on the other by the fact that cemeteries and crematoriums are booked for at least a week.

Pat Marmo's Brooklyn funeral home is equipped to handle 40 to 60 cases at a time. It was taking care of 185 on Thursday morning. “This is a state of emergency,” he said. “We need help.”

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Villeneuve and Michael Hill contributed from Albany, N.Y.

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