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Expecting a coronavirus deluge, Cuomo moves to build hospital surge capacity

March 16, 2020 Mary Frost
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order on Monday allowing New York to increase hospital surge capacity to prepare for an expected deluge of patients with the novel coronavirus.

There have been 463 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City as of March 16 at 11:30 a.m., an increase of 134 confirmed cases in less than 24 hours. Seven people across the state have died, including a woman from Brooklyn.

The state will organize the National Guard and work with building unions and private developers to find existing facilities — such as college dormitories and former nursing homes — that can be converted to backup medical facilities, Cuomo said in a release.

The state’s goal is to create an additional 9,000 hospital beds. Cuomo has asked local governments to help identify possible facilities.

The State Department of Health is also suspending some regulations to allow existing hospitals to increase space and capacity.

On Sunday, Cuomo said that the number of novel coronavirus cases would soon “crash like a wave” on hospitals lacking the capacity to handle them, and called on the Trump administration to throw the full powers of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers into converting SUNY university dorms and government facilities into hospitals.

New York State has roughly 53,000 hospital beds, with only just over 3,000 of them being Intensive Care Unit beds. These ICU beds are presently 80 percent occupied, Cuomo said, leaving only several hundred ICU beds available for the whole state.

Cuomo has asked the Greater New York Hospital Association President Ken Raske and Northwell Health President Michael Dowling to lead a council to develop hospital surge capacity.

“Our main priority right now is reducing the rate of spread of this virus so it can be managed by our health care system,” Cuomo said. “We have never fought a virus like this with this potential consequence, and I am taking executive action to reconfigure and increase capacity at hospitals across the state to ensure our health care facilities can handle a potentially massive surge of patients. We are fighting a war against this virus and the state will continue taking every step necessary to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of this virus.”

Additionally, the governor authorized the state to open a drive-through mobile testing facility on Staten Island, which is the first drive-through facility in New York City. The first opened in New Rochelle on March 13 and another is opening in Rockland County.

Earlier Monday,  Governor Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a regional approach to coordinate COVID-19 planning throughout the tri-state area. This includes creating uniform standards to limit crowd capacity, including a mandate that restaurants and bars temporarily suspend onsite service.

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