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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he plans to sign an executive order on Friday that allows the state to seize any unused ventilators and use the National Guard to send them to hospitals that need them the most.
The announcement came during Cuomo’s daily press conference, during which he continued to plead for more federal resources, particularly a greater number of ventilators and personal protective equipment. He cautioned that states would see their “peak” level of coronavirus cases at different times and urged a coordinated, national effort to deploy equipment to the places that need them most, first.
Cuomo had warned Thursday that the state had about 2,200 ventilators in its stockpile, enough to make it through the next six days. He also said the institutions with idle ventilators will see them returned eventually, or they’ll be reimbursed for their losses.
“First of all, don’t use the word ‘seize,'” Cuomo said when responding to a reporter asking how the state would determine which ventilators to take. “I didn’t use that word. That’s a harsh kind of word. It’s sharing of resources. We’re going to share resources. We’re not going to have any part of the state that doesn’t have the resources we need because we didn’t share resources.”
Cuomo also said Friday that more than 550 New Yorkers died of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, breaking a grim record for the nation’s illness epicenter, which has recorded nearly 3,000 deaths in the past few weeks alone. The state’s morgues are already overwhelmed with bodies, and FEMA has sent dozens of refrigerated trucks to the area’s hospitals.
“You have more deaths, you have more people coming into hospitals than any other night,” Cuomo said. He noted that more cases were beginning to show up across Long Island, which has state officials “very concerned” because the area has fewer resources to care for patients, compared to nearby New York City.
More than 100,000 people have tested positive for the respiratory illness in New York State so far — about half of them in New York City — and nearly 4,000 are currently receiving intensive care. The state has recorded about 45% of all coronavirus deaths across the country, and new sites — including the massive Javits Convention Center, the tennis courts used for the U.S. Open, and Central Park — are being outfitted to treat either coronavirus cases or other patients from overwhelmed hospitals.
Cover: 26 March 2020, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schwerin: A mobile ventilator is located in the emergency room of the Helios Clinic. The Helios Clinic is preparing for an increase in corona cases. Photo by: Jens B’ttner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images