New York suffered its deadliest Coronavirus day as Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would deploy the National Guard to claim ventilators and other equipment from institutions not currently using them.
“I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators,” Mr Cuomo declared as he announced dramatic action to try to cope with a swell of incoming patients that threatens to overwhelm the state’s healthcare system. “Am I seizing ventilators? No, I’m claiming excess equipment to save lives,” he added.
The governor predicted the move would add “several hundred” of the machines to active service, and promised to reimburse any companies or institutions for equipment that was not eventually returned.
In the last 24 hours New York suffered 562 deaths — its highest one-day total — bringing its fatalities to 2,935. Its total caseload now stands at 102,863 — more than 10-times higher than California — with more than 57,000 in New York City.
“You have more deaths, more people coming into hospitals, than any other night,” Mr Cuomo said. He also expressed concern that the virus appeared to be spreading rapidly in Long Island, whose health system was not as robust as that of New York City.
In a sliver of positive news, New York’s hospitals have seen a sharp fall in non-Coronavirus cases because of the virtual shutdown of the state.
Still, the state, the US epicentre for the pandemic, is scrambling to bolster its hospital capacity as cases are expected to surge over the next three weeks. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned earlier in the day that the city’s ICU units were nearly at capacity and called the inflow of patients “staggering.”
As part of that effort, the Javits convention centre, which had been converted to an overflow hospital, will now accept Coronavirus patients, the governor announced.
New York has also been attempting to hastily draw together a Balkanised system of public and private hospitals so that patients can be shared between them, and across different parts of the state, as needed.
Mr Cuomo has been among the most vocal of governors complaining about what they regard as an inadequate response to the pandemic by the federal government.
“Every state is saying the same thing: I need help. I need assistance,” he said, adding that the market for ventilators and other vital equipment “has literally collapsed.”
He urged the federal government to co-ordinate a rolling response — like that in a natural disaster — so that supplies could be rushed from all over the country to the worst affected region.