Cuomo Desperate for Help With New York’s Surging Death Toll

ALBANY (CN) — As images spread of New York hospitals moving body bags to morgues with forklifts — emblematic of a statewide death toll that doubled in three days — Governor Andrew Cuomo had plenty of empathy but few assurances for the public in his daily press briefing Wednesday.

“We’re still on our way up the mountain,” Cuomo said, using the metaphor he’s adopted for the spread of coronavirus. The top of the mountain, known as the apex, is the point at which cases are expected to peak. 

Workers at Brooklyn Hospital Center prepare body wrapped in plastic to be loaded Tuesday onto a refrigerated container truck used as a temporary morgue by medical workers due to Covid-19. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Cuomo cited a McKinsey estimate Wednesday that said the New York apex will come at the end of April, but just how bad it will be depends on how well people practice social distancing between now and then. 

With minimal social distancing, he said, the state will need 110,000 beds and 37,000 ventilators for patients affected by Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. If New Yorkers demonstrate high compliance with social-distancing measures, the state will need 75,000 Covid-19 beds and 25,000 ventilators, according to predictions from the models. 

“Both are looking at the same point of apex; it’s just a lower apex, a lower need at that apex,” Cuomo said. “And that is what we want.” 

Anything requiring more than 110,000 beds is unattainable, the governor added frankly. 

“Overly aggressive estimates don’t mean anything because they’re unachievable,” he said. 

The state as of Wednesday morning had 83,712 confirmed cases — over 60,000 more than any other state — and 1,941 deaths, he said. New Jersey has the next-highest number with 18,696, followed by California at 8,582; Michigan with 7,630; and Florida rounding out the top five, with 6,741.

Cuomo spoke proudly of the state’s aggressive testing measures. Later, he quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” 

Cuomo’s press conference came against a backdrop of press reports that the federal government is giving preferential pandemic treatment to Trump-friendly or Republican-controlled states. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, has twice received everything he requested from the feds, while Republican leaders in Oklahoma and Kentucky received even more than they asked for. Meanwhile Cuomo, a Democrat, begs for more supplies in nearly every public appearance. Trump publicly has said governors who want federal help fighting the virus should act in ways he approves of.  

“It’s a two-way street,” Trump told Fox News. “They have to treat us well, also.”

Cuomo repeated his usual call for help Wednesday. 

“Really, the only hope for a state at this point is the federal government’s capacity to deliver,” he said. 

Cuomo also said Wednesday he would shutter New York City playgrounds to enforce social distancing. He also spoke of future plans to slowly get the economy running again, and said rapid testing is the best way — then people who tested negative would know they could safely be back in society. 

“The anxiety is what is most oppressive here,” Cuomo said, “not knowing.” 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday repeated a warning that Sunday, April 5, is “D-Day” for the city — the beginning of a period for which there is, so far, not enough equipment for health care workers and Covid-19 patients in the city.  

By this coming Sunday, he said, the city needs 3.3 million N95 masks, 2.1 million surgical masks, 100,000 isolation gowns and 400 ventilators. The city does have enough eye protection and surgical gloves to get hospital workers through the week of April 6, he added. 

“These are big numbers for sure,” he said, “but they are reachable numbers — but we have to make sure it happens in time.”

By May 1, the city needs 20,000 more ICU beds and 15,000 ventilators, as well as more personnel. 

De Blasio also announced Wednesday that former Police Commissioner James O’Neill has been appointed to serve as the city’s Covid-19 senior adviser. O’Neill will oversee the supply and distribution of personal protective and medical equipment, the mayor said. 

People wishing to make unrestricted financial donations to New York City’s hospitals and front-line health care workers for meals, laundry service, scrubs, groceries and hotel rooms can do so at nychhc.networkforgood.com, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday. 

Cuomo also said Wednesday that Americans should be thinking about how the Covid-19 pandemic will, and should, change us.

“This is going to be transformative … on a personal basis, on a social basis, on a systems basis,” he said. “We’re never going to be the same again. We’re not going to forget what happened here. … When do we get back to normal? I don’t think we get back to normal. I think we get to a new normal.”

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