The worst of the coronavirus pandemic is set to hit the State of New York “like a bullet train,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference, Tuesday.
“We are not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own,” Cuomo said. “We’re now looking at a bullet train because the numbers are going up that quickly.” He added that the state is in dire need of ventilators and hospital beds.
Speaking at the Javits Convention Center at New York City’s Eleventh Avenue, which is being retrofitted as a 1,000-bed hospital for non-COVID-19 patients, Cuomo asked the federal government to provide its 20,000 reserve ventilators to New York, as well as invoke the Defense Production Act that would direct manufacturers to build the much-needed machines and provide them the necessary financial support to do so.
“I do not for the life of me understand the reluctance to use the Federal Defense Production Act,” Cuomo said. “We need the federal help and we need the federal help now.”
According to Cuomo, the state needs at least 30,000 ventilators and at least 50,000 hospital beds at the minimum in order to accommodate the expected explosion in the state’s number of COVID-19 patients. The state’s hospitals only have a combined number of 11,000 ventilators – of which 7,000 were newly acquired – and 53,000 hospital beds.
Cuomo earlier issued an executive order requiring all hospitals operating within the state to boost their capacity by up to 50 percent in order to meet the expected influx of coronavirus patients.
“The inescapable conclusion is that the rate of infection is going up,” Cuomo said, explaining that the coronavirus’ rate of infection is now doubling every three days.
“It is spiking. The apex is higher than we thought, and the apex is sooner than we thought. That is a bad combination of facts.”
Cuomo further said that the apex, or the worst of the outbreak, could arrive in 14 to 21 days, and is expected to put huge pressure on the state’s health services,
“We haven’t flattened the curve, and the curve is actually increasing,” Cuomo said.
In an earlier briefing with reporters this week, Cuomo said New Yorkers should brace themselves in case the coronavirus’ spread lasts for up to nine months.
“It is going to be four months, six months, nine months,” the governor said, warning that there could be a chance that a major chunk of the population would contract the virus.
“The timeline—nobody can tell you, it depends on how we handle it—but 40 percent up to 80 percent of the population will wind up getting this virus,” Cuomo said. “All we’re trying to do is slow the spread. But it will spread—it is that contagious.”
As of this writing, 25,665 COVID-19 cases and 210 deaths have been confirmed in the state of New York, of which 14,776 cases and 131 fatalities are concentrated in New York City.
Cuomo’s pronouncement echoes a statement made by the World Health Organization (WHO) that said the United States could emerge as the new epicenter of the lethal COVID-19 pandemic after it overtook Spain in terms of the number of infected and deceased individuals.
The United States currently has 61,081 confirmed cases and 841 deaths.
At the same conference, Cuomo also pushed back against what appeared to be plans by the federal government to ease restrictions to boost the country’s economy.
This could be in reference to President Donald Trump’s statement on Monday, saying he was thinking about ways on how to restart the country’s economy once the 15-day shutdown ends next week.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel, noting that the currently imposed restrictions could themselves lead to suicides or other fatalities.
“You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression. You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands,” he said. (Related: Coronavirus HOTSPOT? New York cases now exceed 8,000.)
Trump, however, did not cite any evidence to support the assertion.
Trump’s statements came a day after James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said that the government’s shutdowns to combat the spread of the coronavirus could lead to the U.S. unemployment rate hitting 30 percent in the second quarter, in addition to an unprecedented 50 percent drop in gross domestic product.
Cuomo, in response to Trump’s statements, said that he understood that shutting down the economy is unsustainable in itself, but that being too hasty to ease the limits on travel, socializing and working would also cost the lives of Americans.
“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest,” Cuomo said. “No American is going to say, accelerate the economy at the cost of human life because no American is going to say how much a life is worth.”
Cuomo plans to develop a refined public health strategy that’s also an economic strategy instead of just prioritizing one over the other.
As of this writing, 455,000 have been confirmed to be infected by COVID-19 globally, while 20,543 have been confirmed dead. The virus’ death rate is currently pegged at 12 percent.