ALBANY — As the number of positive cases in New York rises above 15,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a forceful call Sunday for Washington to take a bigger role in managing the crisis.
The governor called on the federal government and the president to nationalize medical supply acquisition and speed up the construction of pop-up hospitals at a press conference held at the Capital on Sunday morning.
He also called on the state’s Congressional delegation to ensure New York receives emergency funding proportionate to its high number of COVID-19 cases, asked hospitals to present plans for increasing their capacity and discussed absentee voting.
A 69-year old man from Dutchess County has died from COVID-19, according to a statement posted to the county health department website on Sunday, bringing the total number of deaths in New York to 114. New York has 15,168 positive cases, with 1,974 requiring hospitalization. Jefferson County recorded a second positive test Sunday. Carthage Area Hospital stated in a news release that the patient is a hospital employee.
Responding to the Dutchess County death, Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, offered his condolences and said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the health care professionals on the front lines of this public health emergency,” in a statement.
States are driving up prices by competing to acquire medical equipment, the governor said, expressing concern that states with far fewer COVID-19 cases than New York were snapping up supplies. “We need to distribute equipment by need rather than having all the states compete. It would be less expensive and avoid price gauging,” he said.
Calling the situation “impossible to manage,” he asked President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would force companies to produce medical equipment, and to oversee a fair distribution of supplies.
“We have cries from hospitals around the state. They need these materials now, and only the federal government can make that happen,” Cuomo said.
Anticipating a dire need for hospital beds as the COVID-19 crisis worsens, the governor asked Washington to move quickly on plans to build temporary hospitals in Westchester, Long Island and Manhattan.
“I am asking president to cut the bureaucracy to get FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the Army Corps of Engineers moving,” he said. “Let’s have those facilities in place before those [COVID-19] trajectories hit an apex.”
“We are ready to go as soon as the federal government is ready to go, he said. “There is no red tape on the side of New York.”
In addition to building pop-up hospitals, Cuomo is also instructing existing hospitals to increase their capacity by 100%. Officials hope to increase the state’s hospital capacity to 110,000 beds; the state currently has 53,000 beds. All regulations on space have been waived to enable hospitals to meet the goal.
Cuomo called on Washington not to politicize emergency funding and asked New York’s Congressional delegation to ensure the state gets its fair share. “Don’t let congress make it pork barrel,” he said. “I need my Congressional delegation to represent the state of New York and deliver.”
The state is looking at ways to increase the use of absentee ballots for the upcoming presidential primary on Apr. 28, Cuomo said. Village elections are also scheduled to take place on that day.
Attorney General James issued a statement on Sunday calling for all eligible New York voters to automatically receive an absentee ballot, but the governor said there may be legal hurdles to statewide absentee voting.
The state Constitution restricts absentee voting to situations where a person is ill or out of the county on election day, said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. “What we are looking at is if our executive authority will allow us to overcome that,” she said.