New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SANITAGO FELIPE
New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SANITAGO FELIPE

Arlington — New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the rate of new coronavirus infections is doubling about every three days despite all the steps taken to slow the spread.

The state has conducted more than 91,000 tests and has 25,665 positive results, the highest and fastest rate of infection, Cuomo said at a press briefing on Tuesday. On Monday, its total was 20,875.

New York has 10 times more cases than California, which has about 2,800 cases, he said, adding that the apex of the New York infections will hit in as soon as 14 days, higher and sooner than expected.

“In many ways, we have exhausted every option available to us,” Cuomo said.

The state now expects it will need as many as 140,000 hospital beds, up from an earlier projection of 110,000. The state has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds, but will need as many as 40,000 ICU beds. “These are troubling and astronomical numbers,” he said.

Deborah Birx, the US state department physician who advises vice-president Mike Pence on the government’s response to the outbreak, said on Monday night that the New York area is in deep danger.

“The New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island have an attack rate close to one in a thousand,” she said. “This is five times what the other areas are seeing. Through the high-throughput lab investigations, we’re finding that 28% of the submitted specimens are positive from that area where it’s less than 8% in the rest of the country.”

“Clearly, the virus had been circulating there for a number of weeks to have this level of [penetration] into the general community,” Birx said.

Cuomo said the state is looking to use state college dorms for hospital space, and is talking to hotel owners for additional beds. He spoke from the Jacob K Javits Convention Centre, which is being turned into a hospital that will have as many as 2,000 beds.

“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need, but we need the staff for those beds,” he said. Cuomo is asking all doctors, including those retired, to help.

He also urged the federal government to help the state get ventilators to treat the affected who will end up in intensive care. New York needs 30,000 ventilators, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sending the state 400.

Only the federal government has the power to get the state the ventilators it needs, he said: “Not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me.” 

Cuomo said the country needs to focus on the “crisis at hand”, which is finding hospital capacity, staff and equipment. Federal agencies should develop tests to see who has already recovered from the virus already, “Once that’s resolved, let them go back to work. It’s restarting the economy and protecting public health. It is both.”

With Josh Wingrove

Bloomberg