ALBANY (CN) — Sharing a sliver of good news Wednesday from ground zero of the U.S. Covid-19 epidemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo touted evidence that the embrace of social distancing could be slowing transmission rates.
Whereas projections showed hospitalizations in New York doubling every 4.7 days as of Tuesday, Cuomo noted that just two days earlier the projection had put hospitalizations doubling at a much higher rate, every two days.
“The evidence suggests that the density-control measures may be working,” Cuomo said. While admitting Tuesday’s projection numbers were “almost too good to be true” and potentially not 100% accurate, the governor pointed later to slowed growth in Westchester County, once one of the country’s biggest hotspots, after a stay-at-home order.
“The arrows are headed in the right direction,” Cuomo said of the new projections.
While Cuomo noted that New York state has 30,811 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — dwarfing the number in every other state — the state has also mounted the country’s most aggressive testing campaign. Nearly 18,000 of the Empire State’s cases are in New York City.
The state with the next-highest number of cases is next-door New Jersey with nearly 3,800, followed by California with over 2,600.
“This is a really dramatic differential,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “This is what I argue to anyone who will listen.”
On a day that New Jersey just saw its biggest jump in coronavirus deaths — the number stands this afternoon at 44 – Cuomo quoted estimates that New York cases will peak in three weeks. The need for ventilators to treat patients hospitalized with Covid-19 remains dire.
Current estimates say New York needs 30,000 ventilators to meet the needs of Covid-19 patients in the coming weeks, and the clock is ticking. He said the existing hospital system has 4,000 ventilators. The state has purchased an additional 7,000, and the federal government sent 4,000 more, he said, bringing the total to 15,000. Unpacking a topic he first broached Tuesday, Cuomo said the state is exploring “splitting” ventilators, or altering one machine to serve two patients — a practice Italy has adopted out of necessity.
“Our single greatest challenge are the ventilators,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “Because again, this is the No. 1 piece of equipment that we need to have.”
He commended President Trump for invoking the Defense Production Act to get private companies to manufacture ventilators as well. The Democratic governor has had to walk a fine line with Trump, who criticized Cuomo in a Fox News town hall on Tuesday, saying, “He’s supposed to be buying his own ventilators.”
Cuomo maintains the state needs dramatically ramped-up federal support to avoid preventable deaths.
The governor also said he has a team shopping around the world for protective equipment for health care workers, as the current supply is expected to run out in a matter of weeks.
Repeating a promise he made earlier this week, Cuomo said New York will transfer resources, equipment and lessons learned to other states as the Empire State recovers and outbreaks take hold in other areas of the country.
“I think that rolling deployment could work here,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “We need help from the entire country right now. We need resources from the entire country right now. Because our apex is first, and our numbers are highest. But the apex high point will be sequential across the country.”
Forty thousand people have voluntarily signed up for New York’s “surge health care force,” Cuomo added. They will be needed as existing health care staff fall ill and stay home, he said. He also said 6,000 mental health professionals have volunteered to provide remote support to those who need it. That hotline number is 1-844-863-9314.
In his remarks Wednesday Cuomo also asked for more money from the federal government. The Senate is considering a bill that would allocate just $3.8 billion to New York state, a number Cuomo said is not nearly enough. A bill from the House of Representatives would have given the state $17 billion, he added later.
Cuomo also pushed back on assertions the country should reopen by Easter, which Trump has called for. While he agreed it’s not sustainable to shut down the economy indefinitely, Cuomo pushed for a nuanced option — to restart the economy gradually, beginning with younger, less at-risk workers.
“In this state, we do everything we can to save a life,” Cuomo said.
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