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NY airports, hospitals feel pressure as virus alarms grow

AP  |  New York 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is scouring the globe for medical supplies and scouting temporary hospital locations as the coronavirus crisis grows.

Flights to New York City-area airports were briefly suspended after an air-traffic control worker tested positive. As the number of confirmed cases statewide soared above 11,000, Columbia University's chief of surgery raised alarms about a torrent of patients soon overwhelming emergency rooms.

Cuomo said the goal is to quickly boost the state's hospital capacity from around 50,000 beds to 75,000 beds. About 1,600 people have been hospitalized so far.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared a major disaster in the state, freeing up access to billions of dollars in relief funding. As of late Saturday night, the disease has killed 60 people in New York City. Numbers for the rest of state were unknown.

Cuomo said the state is looking to see if the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan could be suitable for 1,000 requested field hospital beds that would be supplied by FEMA in a tent configuration with equipment and staff.

Also Saturday, the state was scouting four locations for temporary hospitals that would be built by the Army Corps of Engineers, Cuomo said. The possible sites include the Javits Center, Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island, and the Westchester County Center north of the city.

Everything that can be done is being done," Cuomo said.

Officials have identified 2 million masks that can be sent to hot spots, and apparel companies are pivoting to make masks, Cuomo said. A million masks were being sent Saturday to New York City hospitals, and 500,000 to Long Island.

Because of dwindling supplies, hospitals have been rationing supplies and asking staff to reuse masks until they become soiled. Columbia University's chief surgeon, Dr. Craig Smith, said hospitals in the New York-Presbyterian system are burning through about 40,000 masks a day -- about 10 times the normal amount.

The state is also rounding up critically needed ventilators, purchasing 6,000 to deploy to the most critical areas and investigating whether multiple patients can be served by a single ventilator, Cuomo said.

We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies, he said. The state also will immediately start conducting trials of an experimental COVID-19 treatment with hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax, Cuomo said.

Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, has been touted by President Donald Trump as a possible answer-in-waiting to the outbreak, though many experts caution more testing needs to be done. Cuomo said the Food and Drug Administration is sending 10,000 doses to the state.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 22 2020. 08:32 IST