'A bullet train': Virus peak may come soon, swamp hospitals
NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.
Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.
The rate of new infections, Cuomo said, is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.
“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
New York officials have been racing to essentially double their hospital capacity to up to 110,000 beds. Cuomo now said there could be a peak need of 140,000 beds.
There were more than 25,000 positive cases in New York state and at least 210 deaths, according to state figures. Most of the cases and deaths have been in New York City, an emerging worldwide hotspot in the outbreak.
New York officials are planning to add thousands of beds at the Javits Center and elsewhere. But Cuomo said “they’re nowhere near” the number that will be needed. The state also faces shortages of ventilators and protective equipment for medical workers.
Cuomo called for a national push to send ventilators to New York now, saying the city needs 20,000 of them in a matter of weeks. He said the equipment could then be redeployed to different areas once the peak passes in New York.
“I will take personal responsibility for transporting the 20,000 ventilators anywhere in this country that they want, once we are passed our apex,” he said. “But don’t leave them sitting in a stockpile.”