ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday called on the federal government to nationalize the medical supply chain to order companies to make certain medical supplies, including ventilators, as the state continues to respond to and attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Cuomo urged President Trump to invoke the the Defense Production Act to force companies to make badly needed gowns, masks and gloves, rather than rely on volunteers, Cuomo said.
Invoking the federal act would also ensure that states aren’t competing with each other for the supplies and pushing up the price further. Masks that once cost 85 cents now cost $7, Cuomo said, as states race to supply their hospitals.
The government could also set order numbers and distribute to states by need, Cuomo said.
“Let the federal government take the function of medical supply production and distribution,” Cuomo said. “Just take it.”
At his daily coronavirus briefing, Cuomo also offered the latest testing and positive numbers as of Sunday morning.
Gov. Cuomo’s full Sunday briefing:
Statewide, 61,401 people have been tested, including 15,915 new tests just Saturday. Albany County reported 2,545 tests and 577 new, while Saratoga County reported 1,038 total tests and 143 new, the only two local counties in the state’s top 10.
Positive cases in the state now are at 15,168, 4,812 of those new. Albany County reports 123 cases, 35 new. Albany County is the only local county in the top 10.
Of the 15,168 positive tests, 13 percent are currently hospitalized, the governor said. Cuomo has emphasized that percentage in the push to get more hospital space as cases are expected to continue to surge.
New York also now has 114 deaths due to coronavirus. Nationwide, there have been 374.
“That is a sobering, sad and really distressing fact that should give everyone pause,” Cuomo said.
As for how long the restrictions could last, Cuomo laid out that it will be months, four, six or nine months. The length depends on how everyone handles it.
Cuomo also Sunday requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work erecting four temporary hospitals downstate, including at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
The goal is to expand hospital capacity by 100 percent, Cuomo said, as well as create ICU beds. But the ICU beds are limited by the available ventilators.
If hospitals can’t reach the goal, they still must increase capacity by a minimum of 50 percent, Cuomo said. They can do that with the help of lifted regulations and cancellation of elective surgeries. Elective surgeries must be canceled effective Wednesday, he said.
The state will start testing anti-malarial drugs to see whether they are effective against coronavirus. Cuomo called on the FDA to start approving testing for coronavirus antibodies – indicators that someone has already fought off the infection. That could help get medical professionals back on the job, he said.
Cuomo also stressed that young people can get the disease and transfer it. Those between 18 and 49 represent 53 percent of total cases, he said. Older people and those with underlying illnesses can die from it.
Of those who died, research indicates 70 percent were 70 years old and older and the majority had underlying health conditions. Of those under the age of 70 who died, about 80 percent had an underlying health condition.
Density in New York City remains a problem, including in parks, Cuomo said. He asked for a plan from city officials to correct that. He suggested possibly opening streets to pedestrian traffic.
But Cuomo also struck an optimistic tone, saying everyone is facing a generation-defining challenge. The hardships will be a struggle, “but it will be OK.”
“Life is going to go on,” Cuomo said. “Different, but life will go on.”
“We are going to be the better for it.”