Northeast States Team Up to Buy PPE, Ventilators; NYC Making 50K Weekly COVID-19 Tests

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What to Know

  • More than 29,000 tri-state lives have been lost to date. New York state reported its lowest single-day death toll in weeks (280)
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all New York schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, an update on the "PAUSE" directive is expected this week
  • Murphy's statewide shutdown order remains in effect, though he modified it to allow state parks and golf courses to reopen Saturday

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and six other northeast governors made their first joint announcement since banding together last month to share resources and create a unified reopening strategy.

Going forward, the coalition of states - New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware - will purchase much needed COVID-19 supplies together instead of competing against one another.

This joint effort, Gov. Cuomo says, will bring down supply costs and prevent price-gouging.

"Our states should never be in a position where we are actively competing against each other for life-saving resources," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. "By working together across the region, we can obtain critical supplies as we begin the process to restart our economies, while also saving money for our taxpayers."

Essential medical supplies have been limited since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In one case, Massachusetts relied on the assistance of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to transport millions of masks from China.

To mitigate any lapse in distribution, the states hope to partner with suppliers in the northeast to increase production. They will also, Cuomo says, identify untapped technologies that promise potential for alternative production methods that are more efficient or cost-effective.

"We're much stronger together," said Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont about the consortium of states. Lamont said they are planning for the next round of coronavirus, if there is a next round.

New York State will require hospitals to have a 90-day supply of personal protection equipment "to meet the rate of use during the worst of the crisis," Cuomo announced.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio says "historic" production is underway in the city to produce 50,000 COVID-19 tests per week. 30,000 3D-printed swabs will be ready by Friday, de Blasio says, but that number is expected to grow to 50,000 the following weeks.

The mayor says Albert Einstein College of Medicine is awaiting final approval before it will produce the necessary transport medium that holds test samples. Mayor de Blasio expects that to come by May 17, but until then the city intends to use an outside provider to supply the transport medium to pair with the 3D-printed tests this week.

"But by the week of May 17 we will begin to pair the locally made swabs with a locally made transport medium and then like that cup of coffee, we'll have all the pieces come together and for the first time in the city's history, we will have our own tests kits produced in large numbers right here in the five boroughs," de Blasio said.

The virus is still killing someone in the tri-state area every 2 minutes. Yet, as the governors lay out their reopening blueprints, there have been key signs of progress. New York state is averaging fewer than 1,000 new daily hospitalizations for the first time in a month, though Cuomo says it's still too high.

The tri-state alone has reported more than 472,000 confirmed cases to date: 316,415 in New York, 126,744 in New Jersey and 29,287 in Connecticut.

Gov. Cuomo said the coronavirus killed another 280 people on Saturday, bringing New York's death toll to 19,189. That number does not include the more than 5,300 presumed victims reported in New York City.

New Jersey's fatalities have already exceeded what the widely watched IHME model last projected the state could ultimately see from the crisis: 7,246 by May 19. The most recent model run had projected that as of May 1, New Jersey may lose 6,806 people; it's May 1, and the state has lost nearly 1,000 more than that.

Connecticut has been the least impacted of the three tri-states, reporting 2,436 fatalities to date and far fewer total positive cases. The IHME model puts it far behind New York and New Jersey on the overall virus curve; it says Connecticut could look to relax restrictions after June 21, well past the May 29 date it most recently set for the other two states.

Amid Cloud of Uncertainty, Major Study Offers 1st Real Hope on Treatment

Cuomo has said the crisis won't really be "over" until there's a vaccine. More than 70 of those are in development worldwide, but approval could be at least 12 to 18 months out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says the nation could be in for a "bad fall" if no effective treatment emerges.

Fortunately, Fauci, along with other health experts, seemed to be impressed by the findings from Gilead Sciences' latest clinical trial on Remdesivir, one of the most prominent experimental drugs for COVID-19. Preliminary results found it shortened the recovery time by an average of four days for hospitalized patients.

"You do now have a drug that you have proven can actually work on the virus," Fauci told The Associated Press. "Will it be an overwhelming cure? No, of course not." But it can certainly help free up hospital beds, he said.

No treatment currently is approved for treating the virus, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide since it emerged late last year. On Friday, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to Remdesivir saying that its performance warranted the decision, though regulators acknowledged “there is limited information known about the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir.”

In normal times the FDA requires “substantial evidence” of a drug’s safety and effectiveness, usually through one or more large, rigorously controlled patient studies. But during public health emergencies the agency can waive those standards, simply requiring that an experimental drug’s potential benefits outweigh its risks.

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