Coronavirus: Latest State Actions

By: - March 17, 2020 12:00 am

A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a line of ambulances outside the NYU Langone Hospital Emergency room entrance in New York. John Minchillo/The Associated Press

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

With New York state now surpassing Washington state with the largest number of coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his administration’s priority to increase hospital capacity to meet the expected surge in patients needing care.

He characterized the situation as dire. “I’ve said that the curve is going to turn into a wave and the wave is going to crash the system,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Albany.

He said that the state is in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and building trade unions do discuss the construction of temporary hospitals.

Other states are moving in the same direction. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, asked health officials to investigate reopening closed hospitals in the hopes of raising the number of hospital beds in the state from around 8,000 to 14,000.

New York has about 53,000 hospital beds, but Cuomo said that based on the experience of the coronavirus in China, Italy and elsewhere, the state is projecting a need for 55,000 to 110,000.

The state has about 3,000 intensive care beds and estimates it will need 18,600 to 37,200 ICU beds. The coronavirus is a respiratory illness, which in serious cases leads to pneumonia and the need for care that can best be delivered in an intensive care unit.

New York currently has 1,700 coronavirus cases and a dozen deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global spread of the disease.

New York health officials met today with hospital executives to discuss what state regulations the state can suspend to enable the hospitals to treat more patients.

Aside from the lack of beds, Cuomo said he expects the health system to lack medical providers to meet the crisis, particularly if, as is already occurring, doctors and nurses treating the virus succumb to it themselves.

Cuomo said the state is sending out alerts to retired nurses and doctors to ask if they can be available. He said the state also is going to tap medical and nursing students for extra help. Like other states, including Maryland, the state also is suspending some licensing and certification requirements to bring in medical providers from other states.

The state also expects it will need more than the 4,000 ventilators now in use in hospitals across the state. “We can’t find a ventilator for sale,” Cuomo said. “We’re looking desperately.”

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Michael Ollove

Michael Ollove covers health care for Stateline. Ollove worked for many years at The Baltimore Sun, as an enterprise reporter and an editor.