New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a plea to manufacturers in the state to step up and produce supplies desperately needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
“I don’t have a New York Defense Production Act,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “A governor can’t say to a company, ‘We need you to manufacture this.’ But I ask businesses to consider this and think about the situation that we’re in as a possible opportunity.”
The governor said it was the “cruelest irony” that the U.S. depends on China for many of the medical products that are in short supply, such as N95 masks and other protective equipment.
He stressed that many of these products are cheap and easy to make and that the FDA provides the specifications for them on its website.
“We’re not asking for a favor. We will pay a premium because we need it,” Cuomo said.
In addition to sourcing new supplies, New York has implemented a statewide system for sharing supplies between hospitals. The state is sending out a nightly survey to track inventories of essential supplies and using that data to move surplus into a central stockpile.
“We are asking all the hospitals to contribute what they have to that central stockpile and then we will disburse on a need basis,” Cuomo said. “Some hospitals have more supplies than they are using. We’re saying don’t hoard supplies.”
The governor expressed confidence that a shortage of hospital beds has become less of a concern, as more emergency facilities open up across the state. In New York City, a 750-bed facility is set to open this week at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and another conversion is underway at a Department of Mental Health facility in South Beach on Staten Island.
The most pressing shortage is still of ventilators for the most severely ill patients. The state currently has 2,200 ventilators in the stockpile.
“At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile,” Cuomo said.
He added that it’s too late to produce new ventilators within a time-frame that would be helpful for New York based on the most recent projections.
“The way we are basically acquiring ventilators is the state is buying them,” Cuomo said. “They are very expensive, and the state is broke. So I have no desire to buy more ventilators than we need, but we need what we need.”
Short-term solutions include splitting ventilators, using ventilators formerly designed for administering anesthesia, and ending elective surgeries at hospitals for the time being.
One new development is a push to convert BiPAP machines, which are basically non-invasive ventilators that are less effective but helpful in an emergency situation. The state has purchased 3,000 from Philips in Pittsburgh, 750 of which came in last night, he said.
Cuomo reported the latest overall COVID-19 numbers as well including 92,381 total cases with 51,809 of them in New York City, 13,383 statewide hospitalizations, and 2,372 deaths in the state. He also noted that every county in the state has now reported a coronavirus case and urged rural counties to take the outbreak seriously, despite not dealing with the same level of density in New York City.
In a notable moment, the governor’s brother joined the briefing by video. CNN host Chris Cuomo is suffering from COVID-19 and shared some insight into his experience with the public.
“This is very tough. I get it now,” said the younger Cuomo.