Cuomo says New York coronavirus temporary hospitals to include Javits Center, more as state grapples with crisis

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced four sites that will serve as temporary hospitals in the state Saturday, amid the coronavirus outbreak rocking the state and the nation.

The four initial sites, recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers, are the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, locations at SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center.

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New York State, as of Saturday morning, accounts for more than one-third of all confirmed cases in the United States, with more than 8,000 confirmed cases. Fifty-six people in New York have died due to coronavirus.

"Every day we see the number of cases of novel coronavirus continue to rise, and we know that by all projections we're going to have more hospitalizations than we can deal with in our healthcare system," Cuomo said in a statement Saturday. "We have a plan of action to help stop the spread of this virus, including expanding hospital capacity and identifying new hospital beds, and after meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and hearing their recommendations, we stand ready for the building of temporary hospitals at four facilities in New York State.”

He added: “This is a public health crisis, but worse than the virus is the fear, but we have a plan and we are doing everything we can to keep the people informed and save lives."

The sites were identified by an inspection team led by the Army Corps of Engineers and included state officials from New York’s Office of General Services, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, the New York Department of Health and the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. The team visited more than a dozen sites to review their capability to serve as temporary hospitals, Cuomo’s office said.

“Upon the Governor’s determination, the Army Corps is expected to immediately begin work to construct the temporary hospitals,” Cuomo’s office said in a statement. “The Governor is also requesting FEMA designate four field hospitals with 250 for each state, intended for use in the Javits Center in addition to the temporary hospital to be constructed by the Army Corps.”

Cuomo has warned that the virus puts stress on New York state hospitals, and that the state’s hospital system only has 53,000 beds. For days, he has weighed how to create additional space for the expected influx of patients in the coming days and weeks due to the virus. 

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Earlier this week, Cuomo and President Trump came to an agreement to "immediately" dispatch U.S. Navy hospital, USNS Comfort, to New York City Harbor, which the Pentagon offered as part of the domestic response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The USNS Comfort has 1,000 beds and is run by military personnel, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

The USNS Comfort was in port in Norfolk, Va. undergoing repairs after a six-month tour in South America and would not be ready to arrive in New York until "mid April" at the earliest.  At this point, efforts are being made to expedite the timeline.

The Pentagon, though, said that the ship's capabilities "are focused on trauma," rather than infectious disease.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Cuomo also announced that the state has identified two million additional N95 masks for purchase, and plans to send one million to New York City and 500,000 to hospitals in Long Island. The governor’s office also said that apparel manufacturers in the state are going to begin to manufacture masks and other medical equipment.

New York, according to the governor’s office, is also gathering ventilators form different health facilities across the state to be used in “the most critical areas.” The state has already purchased 6,000 additional ventilators.

Additionally, Cuomo announced that State Department of Health Commissioner has recommended trials for new drug therapy to help combat COVID-19.

“The FDA is acquiring 10,000 doses of Hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax for New York State to use on a trial basis,” Cuomo’s office said Saturday.

Cuomo also warned that the coronavirus outbreak was something the state is likely to grapple with for months.

“I don’t believe it’s going to be a matter of weeks, it's going to be a matter of months,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany, a day after issuing a stay at home order for most New Yorkers.

The U.S. has more than 23,400 confirmed cases. 285 people in the U.S. have died.