ALBANY — With COVID-19 infections in New York state expected to peak within the next two weeks, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo detailed his administration’s continuing efforts to prepare for the surge in patients at downstate hospitals.
COVID-19 infections could peak in as soon as seven to eight days, Gov. Cuomo said.
“We’re not there yet, but we are getting close,” he said.
As the projected apex of the virus draws near, the governor said it feels like a lifetime has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March and compared the state’s efforts to fight the virus to a war.
“You go to war with what you have, not what you need,” he said at a press conference Saturday morning at the state Capitol. “At one point, you are where you are and then you have to do the best with what you have.”
Gov. Cuomo announced ventilator donations were being made and provided details on how volunteer health workers will be vetted and assigned in the coming weeks.
“This pandemic has been stressing our nation on every level and we are doing everything in our power to prepare for the fight that will come at the apex,” Gov. Cuomo said. “... these ventilators will save lives. This is a painful, disorienting experience, but we will get through it together and we will all be the better for it.”
Gov. Cuomo confirmed 10,841 additional cases of the virus Saturday, bringing the statewide total to 113,704 confirmed cases.
He said 23,101 people were tested for the virus Friday, which is the highest number of tests the state has done to date.
There are 15,905 people currently hospitalized with the virus, an increase of 1,095. Of those patients, 4,126 are ICU patients, an increase of 395.
The governor added that 10,478 patients have been discharged from the hospital after having the virus, an increase of 1,592. He noted that two-thirds of those hospitalized with the virus have been discharged.
There have been a total of 3,565 virus deaths in the state, the governor said, up from 2,935.
As COVID-19 patients increasingly overwhelm New York City hospitals, Gov. Cuomo said his top priority is making sure the 2,500-bed temporary hospital at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan is staffed and equipped to handle new patients. Although the Javits Center site was originally set up to treat patients who do not have COVID-19, the pop-up hospital will now treat COVID-19 victims.
“That will relieve a lot of the pressure on the downstate system,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo asked the White House to speed up work on the Javits Center pop-up hospital, which will be funded and managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said, adding he did not say when the facility would begin accepting patients.
Calling the Javits Center “a significant relief valve for much of downstate,” Gov. Cuomo did not address plans to relieve pressure on downstate hospitals by transferring some patients upstate. State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker was also present at the press conference but did not comment on upstate transfers.
Gov. Cuomo also announced Saturday that the state is the recipient of ventilator donations from two Chinese billionaires and the state of Oregon. Jack Ma and Joe Tsai, the founders of the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, have donated 1,000 ventilators, and Oregon is lending the state 140 of its ventilators, Cuomo said.
The donations come as health officials warn that the state could be facing a severe ventilator shortage. The state has been unable to procure ventilators on the open market, despite efforts by state officials, Gov. Cuomo said.
The state placed an order for 17,000 new ventilators, but only 2,500 have arrived, he added.
The governor provided an update on the process of vetting and distributing healthcare volunteers to hospitals in need. Eighty-five thousand people have submitted their credentials so far, with 22,000 of those from outside of state, he said.
“We have a vetting process internally, about 175 people vet the prospective volunteers,” said Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College, who oversees the online portal to track medical volunteers. “We check for licensing and we check for disciplinary problems. Often the hospitals will also do their own vetting as well.”
About 20 hospitals have already requested and received medical volunteers, he said.