New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday warned the coronavirus crisis could continue until August as cases continue to rise, with more than 400 deaths overnight across the Empire State.
“There is no superhero who is immune to this disease. Anyone can get it. No one can be protected from it. I couldn’t protect my own brother,” Cuomo said. “This is troubling news.”
More than 2,220 people have died and 92,381 more have been infected with the virus in New York State, with the death toll spiking 22 percent in the last 24 hours, Cuomo said. About 51,809 of those cases are in New York City, a city of 8.6 million that accounts for 21 percent of the national infection rate.
As of Thursday morning, more than 5,137 people have died and 216,722 individuals have been infected with the virus nationwide—a death toll that has eclipsed China’s official count by more than 54 percent.
“We are asking all the hospitals to contribute what they have to a central stockpile and then disburse on an as-need basis,” Cuomo said. “If a person comes in and needs a ventilator and you don’t have a ventilator, the person dies. That’s the blunt equation here. And right now we have a burn rate that would suggest we have about six days in the stockpile.”
In a moment of levity during Thursday’s press conference, CNN host Chris Cuomo joined his brother to talk about life with the coronavirus. The television host said that while he is continuing to work, he’s very uncomfortable—and the virus even caused him to have a fever dream in which the governor danced in a ballet outfit with a wand.
“It’s not doing too great with my hair,” the younger Cuomo said, before adding to his brother, “You look like you’ve been cutting your own hair.”
But despite the moment of laughter, Cuomo’s message on Thursday was clear: While the state government is working to get ahead of the virus, it could be weeks until New York sees the worst of this deadly pandemic. Projections state that the apex could come anytime between one week and a month from now. Those same projections state the virus could continue to plague New York until August, Cuomo said.
“It’s anywhere from seven to 21 to 30 days. It depends on how that model rates how effective social distancing is,” Cuomo said. “We believe it is close to the shorter end of the range with our in-house people looking at the professional modeling that’s being done.”
One New York City doctor on the frontlines of this highly infectious virus told The Daily Beast he is “constantly stressed about how the worst is yet to come.” At least three nurses in city hospitals have died after contracting the coronavirus during their shifts and dozens more have tested positive.
“I think over the last few weeks, we have really seen the limits our hospitals can go with as little resources as possible,” the NYU Langone doctor said. “I can’t even imagine when we get to the apex of this pandemic. How are we expected to keep this up? This is uncharted territory.”
So far, state officials have already taken extraordinary steps to combat the pandemic. To alleviate overcrowding, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has been converted into a makeshift, 3,000-bed overflow hospital facility. The USNS Comfort, a naval ship equipped with 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms, a medical laboratory, and over 1,000 officers, docked in Manhattan on Monday to help relieve hospitals of patients not infected with the virus.
A section of Central Park has also been transformed into a field hospital to help house COVID-19 patients and construction has begun on a 350-bed facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens for patients without the virus.
City officials have also increased the number of mobile morgues: As of Thursday, 45 refrigerated trucks have been set up across the five boroughs, some of which are already filled up. “Everyone is basically waging the same battle,” the governor said. “Can you handle the height of that impact on the hospital system?"
Cuomo and some hospitals have also reported an influx of necessary personal protective equipment. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office told The Daily Beast that as of Thursday, nearly 2 million surgical gloves, more than 2 million N95 masks, and about 8.2 million face masks have been distributed to hospitals.
The governor said that at the state’s apex, hospitals will need anywhere from 70,000 to 110,000 more hospital beds than those that are currently available—and has asked facilities to contribute what they have to a central stockpile that can later be dispersed to those in need.
He added that in “the cruelest irony,” New York and several other states have ordered thousands of ventilators from China.
Cuomo said that after speaking with President Donald Trump Thursday morning, he believes that while “the federal government would do anything they can do to help,” New York should not count on the administration to aid in the supply shortfall.
“I don’t think the federal government is in a position to provide ventilators to the extent the nation may need them,” Cuomo said. “Assume you are on your own in life.”
To ensure supplies are being used efficiently in New York City, de Blasio has brought back a familiar face: James P. O’Neill, the former police commissioner. O’Neill, who retired in November 2019, will now serve as a volunteer special adviser to oversee medical supplies and personal protective equipment for frontline health-care workers.
“It’s important that we all come together as New Yorkers. It's one thing I saw in my time as a cop, you know, this is a resilient city. Everybody’s supportive,” O’Neill said Wednesday. “Lately, I’ve just been seeing, reading, hearing about all the great work that’s going on in New York City right now. And I just felt compelled to come back and offer to help and do whatever I could.”
Cuomo said that over 21,000 health-care workers nationwide have offered their services to help New York treat the influx of infected patients after the governor’s Monday plea. Hospitals around the state are expected to hire at least 1,5000 more volunteers to alleviate the current medical workforce that is overwhelmed and understaffed, he added.
“I thank them for their patriotism. I thank them for their dedication and passion to the health care system. These are beautiful, generous people, and New Yorkers will return the favor. This is going to affect every place in the country,” Cuomo said. “When your community needs help, New Yorkers will be there and you have my personal word on that.”
Responding to Trump’s Twitter slam Thursday that certain governors are “complainers” and that “New York, unfortunately, got off to a slow start,” Cuomo defended his staff, saying his state has obtained more supplies than any other, and he is working diligently to ensure patients get the help that they need.
“I am doing everything I can but people are still dying and that is very humbling and painful,” Cuomo said. “If I fail, I fail. That’s on me.”
Health-care professionals, however, are still “terrified” that New York’s medical system will not be able to weather the worst of the storm.
“I’m working about 100 hours a week in the ER,” one Brooklyn nurse told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “My face is all bruised from my N95 mask and I don’t think I’ve ever felt this kind of exhaustion before. But I have no choice—because if I don’t come into work, even though I am scared sometimes, patients will suffer.”