Tri-State Tops 150K COVID-19 Cases; Time Running Out for NYC to Get Medical Supplies

To date, more than 150,000 people have been infected and more than 4,500 people have died in NY, NJ and CT; Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state is likely four to eight days away from its apex

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What to Know

  • New York has reported more COVID-19 cases than China's Hubei province, where the pandemic started; its death toll has climbed above 3,500
  • New Jersey is the nation's second most-impacted state; Gov. Phil Murphy says he has ordered all flags lowered to half-staff "immediately and indefinitely" to acknowledge the lives lost and those that will be lost
  • More than 150,000 in the tri-state area have now tested positive for COVID-19; more than 4,500 have died, including first responders and children

President Trump issued the order to dispatch an additional 1,000 medical military personnel in an effort to assist in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic in New York City.

"I am thrilled to say we're finally getting help from the federal government in terms of military personnel. We heard that from the president, it's something I've been asking him to do for the past week," de Blasio said Saturday evening, appearing on CNN.

De Blasio repeated his call for a national enlistment for healthcare personnel, an initiative her proposed Friday.

"I think we need to move father. I think we need to mobilize completely because New York City is just the top of the spear. I think we need a national enlistment initiative fore healthcare personnel to be enlisted by the federal government," de Blasio said on CNN.

By Saturday, the tri-state area recorded a combined total of 153,104 positive coronavirus cases and 4,576 related deaths.

Another 4,331 residents have tested positive for coronavirus in New Jersey, bringing the statewide total to 34,124, Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday afternoon.

Of those who tested positive, another 200 passed away due to COVID-19 complications between Friday and Saturday, bringing the state's death toll to 846, Murphy said.

"We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did in the September 11 attacks. Please let that sink in for a moment," Murphy said, calling the new numbers "particularly sobering."

Nine of the new deaths were residents of long-term care facilities, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. A total of 1,494 patients in the state are currently in intensive care units, 1,263 of whom are on ventilators, Persichilli noted. 

Murphy said he plans to issue an order allowing the state’s municipalities and counties to “prohibit all rentals to transient guests or seasonal tenants for the duration of the emergency, including at hotels and motels.” 

“Social distancing does not work by relocating to the [Jersey] Shore,” he said.

In New York, a total of 113,704 people in the state have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 3,565 people have died — up from 2,935 on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Saturday morning.

Cuomo said New York City has seen 63,306 of those cases. That total includes 2,624 deaths, according to Cuomo's spokeswoman. New York City reported 1,867 deaths as of 5 p.m. on Friday. The state is likely four to eight days away from the apex of new COVID-19 cases, Cuomo noted.

The federal government will be staffing and equipping 2,500 beds at the Jacob K. Javits Center for COVID-19 patients, he said.

“This is a dramatic help in our battle against time, spread and lacking hospital capacity,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter. “Reducing the strain on NYC area hospitals is a top priority.” 

The Chinese government will facilitate the donation of 1,000 ventilators, set to arrive at JFK Airport on Saturday, Cuomo added. The state of Oregon, meanwhile, will lend New York 140 ventilators. 

"That'll get us into next week for sure. How far into next week? We're still not sure," de Blasio said on CNN. "We think at some point next week we could have 5,000 people on ventilators."

"Look, I want this all to be over. It’s only gone on for 30 days, since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime,” Cuomo said at the news conference. "I think we all feel the same. This stresses this country, this state, in a way nothing else has, frankly, in my lifetime."

Cuomo will sign an executive order allowing medical students who were slated to graduate this spring to start practicing now, he said.

“These are extraordinary times and New York needs the help,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cuomo noted that two-thirds of people in the state admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 treatment have since been discharged.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday reiterated his call for a "national enlistment system" to recruit doctors, nurses and other health care workers and send them to cities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the crisis "the equivalent of being in a war."

The day de Blasio has declared as a line of demarcation in the city's fight for supplies, April 5, is hours away — and it still is not clear if NYC will have enough ventilators, beds and medical workers to efficiently treat COVID-19 patients through the end of next week.

While there's enough to make it through Sunday and possibly Monday, the city still needs thousands of those items and individuals to avoid hitting a breaking point in the health care system.

During an MSNBC appearance Saturday morning, de Blasio said the crisis would be "like having many [Hurricane] Katrinas."

"Why is there not a national mobilization?" the mayor asked. "If enough Americans… call for it, it puts pressure on the president to move."

On Friday, de Blasio reiterated the numbers he believes the city needs: 2,500-3,000 ventilators (part of 15,000 needed by the end of April), 45,000 new medical personnel (37,500 for the new field hospitals, the other 7,500 at regular hospitals), and 85,000 hospital beds (an increase from 20,000 the city had before the crisis).

De Blasio said the best source to get the ventilators is through the federal government, which he said has 10,000 units still in the national stockpile. Despite that claim, President Trump on Friday said that he could not guarantee New York would get the ventilators it might need, saying the state "should have ordered more."

The mayor also said the state has 2,000 in stockpile, which need to be distributed to the other hard-hit areas of New York as well. De Blasio said the city had so far gotten 1,780 ventilators from private companies, and supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order to get more by taking them from companies not using them.

"I'm guaranteeing you that next week is going to be a lot tougher. Next week in New York City is going to be very tough," de Blasio said. "We have days to set up a structure to truly mobilize the medical community of this nation ... If that is not done in the coming days, you're going to see people die who did not need to die."

Cuomo authorized the National Guard to take ventilators from institutions that don't need them immediately and redistribute them to hospitals that do, as he reported Friday New York had seen its biggest single-day increase in deaths from the virus.

Cuomo's new executive order, which applies to personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as ventilators, comes a day after he said he only had enough of the latter in his stockpile to last six days at the "current burn rate." The trajectory only went up — daily hospitalizations hit a new record Thursday after declining the previous two days. About a quarter of hospitalized patients are in ICUs. Those people need ventilators, and they stay on them 20 to 30 days, much longer than the typical two-to-three-day use for a non-COVID-19 patient.

There's increasing need — and less turnover. Cuomo has procured thousands of ventilators in recent weeks but says the market has "collapsed" as states vie for the coveted life-saving machines and the federal stockpile dwindles. He is leveraging creative techniques to stretch supply like co-venting and retrofitting anesthesia machines. It's still not enough.

Cuomo and de Blasio maintain that facilities that have their ventilators redistributed will get them back; if that doesn't happen for one reason or another, they'll be reimbursed. And if their need eclipses others' at some point in the near future, he'll reallocate again.

"The practical solution at this point is focus on the emergency that is in front of you," the governor said Friday. "I'm not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have ventilators in our state somewhere else."

One projection from the Gates Foundation-funded IHME suggests New York could lose a total 16,000 people through the second week of May.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator, says Connecticut could be one of the nation's next hotspots. As of Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont had reported 165 deaths and 5,276 cases.

To date, the tri-state area has seen a combined 153,104 cases and 4,576 deaths. All of the unprecedented joint measures Cuomo, Murphy and Lamont have implemented mean nothing if people do not adhere to the most critical advice: Stay home. And when you go out, stay apart.

"Too much is at stake," Cuomo said. "We have to get this right."

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Nationally, the Trump administration said the CDC recommends all Americans wear non-medical face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. However, in the same press conference, Trump said that he would not be wearing any protective masks.

"I'm choosing not to do it. It's only a recommendation," Trump said.

Why now? You simply don't know: Did that person who crossed the street just ahead of you have the virus and recover? Could they still be contagious? Do they have COVID-19 now and show no symptoms? Are they sick and just pre-symptomatic?

"Studies are showing asymptomatic individuals are transmitting this disease," de Blasio said. He, along with the city's top doctor, Oxiris Barbot, stress the masks aren't to protect the people wearing them but to protect everyone else. And they're meant to reinforce the social distancing guidelines, not replace them.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. State Department official working as a coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, told reporters on Thursday that social distancing is the best protection.

De Blasio says up to half of New Yorkers could contract the virus at some point -- and many won't even know it. New CDC research suggests anyone can be a carrier of the virus, healthy-looking or not. It offered one particularly striking example. Two tourists who had no symptoms sat in a Singapore church. Two days later, a 52-year-old woman sat in one of the seats they had used. She got sick -- and researchers, using closed-circuit camera recordings of the church services, linked her infection to those tourists. Both of them later fell ill.

Mask use should not give people a "false sense of security," the White House's Dr. Birx warned; she says social distancing remains the best way to slow the spread of infection.

In New Jersey, Murphy said residents are welcome to use masks as long as they're not the ones needed on the front lines. But he reiterated the same message he and others have stressed for weeks: Social distancing is the best offense and defense against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"In the absence of a vaccine, it's our best surrogate vaccine. There is no silver bullet to make it go away overnight," the governor said Friday. "It will take all of us over the coming weeks to stay disciplined in our social distancing, disciplined in our hygiene and disciplined in our basic common sense."

Nationally, NBC News estimates that more than 300,000 people have been infected and more than 8,000 have died. New projections from the White House suggest up to 240,000 lives could be lost to the pandemic, even with mitigation efforts like social distancing. See how COVID-19 has spread across the United States since March 1 using this interactive map.

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