ALBANY — The state devised a team for New York’s public and private hospitals to work together as one health care system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, for the state to have a fighting chance to get ahead of the coronavirus COVID-19.
More than 18,000 people were tested for the novel coronavirus Monday, Cuomo said — more than any state and more per capita than China, where the virus originated in late December.
The state reported a total of 1,550 virus-related deaths Tuesday afternoon — up from 1,218 Monday. At 75,795 positive cases Tuesday, just over 14.4% of positively infected New Yorkers are hospitalized, or 10,929 people, with 2,710 patients in the intensive care unit. To date, 4,975 patients have been discharged.
State officials look at five expert projection models, the governor explained during a COVID-19 briefing at the state Capitol on Tuesday, to calculate the number of hospital beds, ventilators and supplies to combat the pandemic. Cuomo has used the highest projections — 140,000 total hospital beds, 40,000 ventilators, etc. — to prepare for the virus peak, which could hit the state in one to three weeks.
The state ordered 17,000 ventilators from China at a minimum of $25,000 each, Cuomo announced Tuesday.
“Of the 17,000, we only have a firm expectation on 2,500,” Cuomo said, adding the machines are expected to arrive within two weeks.
States like New York, California and Illinois have bid against each other in the competition for more ventilators before a rolling COVID-19 apex hits the nation, Cuomo said, which has driven ventilator prices as high as $45,000 each.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also entered the bidding war for ventilators, the governor said, which drove prices still higher and put stress on state governments.
“States are bidding and FEMA gets involved and starts bidding, and FEMA is driving up the price,” Cuomo said. “The federal government should have been the purchasing agent..and then allocate it by need to the states.”
The state has more than 160 private hospitals and health care systems within the Greater New York Hospital Association, with 11 public hospitals under NYC Health+ in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. The state formed a central coordination team with the state Department of Health, Greater New York Hospital Association, the Healthcare Association of New York State and others to devise a plan to organize staffing, equipment, the intensive care threshold, policies for patient transport and more before COVID-19 overwhelms state health care systems.
“We have to get the private system and the public system in New York City working together in a way they never did before,” Cuomo said. “We are one health care system.”
As of Tuesday, downstate patients are not being transferred upstate, Cuomo said. Upstate staff will be sent to assist New York City and downstate hospitals first.
Hospitals must help each other and coordinate so facilities and staff don’t become overburdened, as Elmhurst Hospital in Queens was earlier this week and more than a dozen COVID-19 patients died in 24 hours.
“The health care system is a chain,” Cuomo said. “It breaks anywhere, it breaks everywhere...it doesn’t matter which hospital, which link. Any link breaks, the chain breaks.”
Cuomo announced Tuesday his brother, television journalist Chris Cuomo, tested positive for COVID-19. Chris hosts the weeknight news analysis show “Cuomo Prime Time” on CNN. The governor was interviewed on the show Monday via teleconference, and did not have physical contact with his brother.
Additional laws, regulations and executive orders were put in place over the last several weeks to curb the pandemic’s spread, including the closing of bars and restaurants to take-out and delivery only, requiring nonessential employees to work from home and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people to encourage social distancing.
The measures are a mandate, Cuomo said, and are necessary to flatten the curve, or reduce the density, of the contagion. State and national emergency regulations are in effect indefinitely.
“We just have to do it,” the governor said of social distancing. “Calibrate yourself and your expectations so you’re not disappointed every time you get up... It’s about a social stamina. This is not going to be an Easter surprise.
“Stay at home,” the governor said. “I know everyone thinks ‘I can go out and I won’t get infected because it’s me. It’s not gonna be me.’ It’s not just about you and your health or your life. You can infect other people.”
Columbia County had 39 positive cases of the virus as of Monday afternoon. Six remain hospitalized with two patients in intensive care. Seventy people are under mandatory quarantine and 20 under precautionary quarantine. Ten residents have suspected cases, but have not been tested.
Greene County has 20 accumulative positive cases of COVID-19 in Windham, Durham, Greenville, Hunter, Cairo, Catskill, Athens and Coxsackie as of Tuesday afternoon. One person was hospitalized, but was released. Six cases have been cleared and discharged, with 14 remaining active cases, according to a statement from Greene County Public Health. Eighty-eight people remain under precautionary quarantine and are self-monitoring for possible exposure.
The state’s most dense virus hot spots have remained downstate and in New York City. As of Monday, the virus has been detected in 56 counties, including the city, with 43,139 positive cases in New York City, 9,967 cases in Westchester County, 8,544 in Nassau County, 6,713 cases in Suffolk County, 2,863 in Rockland County and 210 in Albany County.
To see the complete county breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Healthcare Association of New York State as the Hospital Association of New York State.