Friday, March 27, 2020

N.Y., N.J. Deaths Surge, and Governors Prepare for Far More
By Keshia Clukey, Christian Berthelsen, and Elise Young
March 27, 2020, 5:24 PM EDT

Hospital beds fill up, and medical masks and gowns are needed
Cuomo and Murphy said they need more, continuous federal aid

New York and New Jersey governors warned of a looming need for hospital beds, equipment and workers as deaths in the two U.S. states with the highest rates of the new coronavirus surged overnight.

In New York, where deaths spiked 35% in a day to push the cumulative toll to more than 500, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would seek federal assistance for four new emergency hospitals. Deaths in New Jersey, which has fewer cases but is tracking New York in pace, jumped 33% to 108.

Despite reports of hospital shortages and rationing, Cuomo on Friday insisted the state has enough ventilators and equipment for the immediate future, and that the state is stockpiling additional supplies for an expected peak of infections three weeks from now.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said he has President Donald Trump’s support for four pop-up hospitals and is in need of medical workers, masks and gloves.

Cuomo 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. Trump on Thursday had questioned whether New York would need that much equipment.

“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.”

More Beds

The new New York 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.

New Jersey’s first of four FEMA-run hospitals will be ready around April 3 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, according to State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan.

Murphy said the state has received no word on its request for 2,300 ventilators and 4.5 million masks from the federal government. In the meantime, he said, corporations, medical offices, ambulatory surgery centers and others with such supplies have a deadline tonight to report their inventories to the state.

Cases Rise

New York has the most cases among U.S. states. Positive tests topped 44,000 on Friday, up more than 7,000 from Thursday. In New Jersey, positive cases reached 8,825, up from 6,687 a day earlier.

A week ago, New York had 7,845 cases and New Jersey had less than 1,000. The jump is largely due to increased testing, both governors said.

By May, New Jersey hospitals could fall short by almost 200,000 hospital beds, according to research by Rutgers University’s Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs in Camden. Bergen, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset and Union counties could run out of hospital space before April 30.

Flattening Curve

Even if residents strictly adhere to social distancing, hospitals may have to turn away 60,000 patients, the study found. The authors cautioned that the findings are based on results of less than robust testing for Covid-19. They urged more testing to help slow the virus’ spread, known as flattening the curve.

“To know where we are on the curve, we need to know how many people have the virus,” the authors wrote.

Cuomo has ordered hospitals to increase their bed capacity by at least 50%, and hotels and college dorms are being converted into medical facilities. Murphy on Friday pleaded for people with medical expertise to come help in New Jersey.

“If you have training, we need you,” Murphy said. State officials are working on arranging transportation and lodging for temporary workers, he said.

Schools in both states are closed until at least mid-April, while nonessential businesses are shut down. Residents have been told to work from home and stay there as much as possible.

“Is there an intrusion on daily life? Yes. Is there an intrusion on movement? Yes. Is there an intrusion on the economy? Yes,” Cuomo 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.

Essential Workers

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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