Cuomo Tells Hospitals To Increase Number Of Beds
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is issuing an executive order directing hospitals statewide to increase their capacity by 50% to combat COVID-19.
Cuomo discussed the order during his daily news conference on the novel coronavirus. The governor said the state has 53,000 hospital beds statewide and may need as many as 110,000. He said there are 3,000 intensive care beds while the state may need as many as 18,000 to 37,000 ICU beds.
“We would ask you to try to increase your capacity 100%,” the governor said. “Okay? So we now have 53,000 beds. We need 110,000 beds. If they increased the capacity 100% that solves the mathematical projection. Right? I think it’s unreasonable to say to every hospital basically double your capacity. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say try to reach 100% increase but you must reach a 50% increase. Fifty percent increase, we’re only at 75,000 beds. We still have a problem between 75,000 and 110,000.”
Creating the additional hospital beds only solves part of the problem, Cuomo said. Once there is hospital space for those who need to be hospitalized the state still needs to find hospital staff to operate that increased capacity and find the supplies necessary as well.
The state has put out a request for retired health care professionals who still have the necessary licenses and registrations to come back to work, though the governor said the call is merely a request, not an order.
“I can’t legally — well I probably could legally — ask them to come into state service,” Cuomo said. “But this is just a request. We put it out. We’ve gotten very good response. There are hundreds of thousands of health care professionals who are licensed and registered in this state but we have 30,000 responses to date and I’m doing an emergency Executive Order for all nurses who are registered to enlist and the Department of Financial Services is sending a directive to insurance companies. Health insurance companies employ many nurses, doctors, et cetera in the insurance business. We’re saying, we don’t need them in the insurance business now, we would like them to help in hospitals because this is not about assessing insurance claims at this point. This is about saving lives. When we get to assessing insurance claims, we can handle it then.”
Cuomo said the state is doing what it can to find supplies and equipment and credited state businesses that are retooling their factories to make masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment and ventilators.
But, Cuomo said, the competition between states for a limited supply of the required items is driving up the costs, prompting the governor to push for the federal government to use the Federal Defense Production Act to produce certain quantities of the items.
President Donald Trump has balked at using the full weight and force of the Federal Defense Production Act because he doesn’t want to nationalize private companies.
“It does not nationalize any industry,” Cuomo said. “All it does is say to a factory, “You must produce this quantity.” That’s all it does. I understand the voluntary public-private sector partnership, and there are a lot of good companies who are coming forward and saying let us help. But it can’t just be who wants to help let me know. We need to know what the numbers of what we need produced and who is going to produce and when.
I get that a lot of companies are stepping up and doing good things, and that’s a beautiful thing. They’re doing it here in New York too, but you can’t run this operation that way. It can’t just be based on we’re waiting for people to come forward with offers and if you happen to get a lot of offers on gloves, then you have a lot of gloves. But if you get no offers on masks, then you don’t have masks.”
Cuomo also touched on how to begin restarting the state’s economy after the phased shut-down of most businesess over the past week. Cuomo said he takes total responsibility for shuttering businesses and keeping workers home, but admitted that it is not practical to keep the economy stopped forever. He said it may be time to embrace the work of a Yale University doctor who is researching the possibility of isolating the vulnerable populations and ending isolation for those who aren’t as vulnerable and who could survive a novel coronavirus infection.
“Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow, who I worked with for 30 years, they’re now in the private sector, they’re going to start to think about this,” Cuomo said. “How do you restart or transition to a restart of the economy? How do you dovetail that with a public health strategy? As you’re identifying people who have had the virus and have resolved, can they start to go back to work? Can younger people start to go back to work because they’re more much tolerant to the effect of the virus? So, how do you – you turned off the engine quickly, how do you now start or begin to restart or plan the restart of that economic engine? Separate task, but something that we have to focus on.”