Facing a rapid increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York state is ready for the Army Corps of Engineers to start building temporary hospitals in the state immediately.
Cuomo said he had toured and formally approved four sites in the state, including the Javits Center in Manhattan and others in Westchester County and Long Island.
"Time matters, minutes count," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany on Sunday. "From my perspective, construction can start tomorrow."
Cuomo also urged the federal government to nationalize the effort to acquire protective medical supplies — including masks, gowns and gloves — that are in short supply. He says masks that used to cost 85 cents are now priced at $7 as states are forced to bid against each other for limited supplies.
"I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators," said Cuomo. "The essential medical equipment, that's going to make a difference between life and death."
The coronavirus is blamed for more than 100 deaths in New York, while the number of confirmed cases has climbed to more than 15,000. That's by far the most of any state, though Cuomo said that's partly because New York is testing more aggressively than other states. If the infection rate continues its current trajectory, Cuomo says the state will need 110,000 hospital beds at its peak – more than twice as many as it has currently.
Cuomo announced that a clinical trial of new drugs to treat COVID-19, including Hydroxychloroquine, would begin on Tuesday in New York.
He also vented his frustration that New York City residents continued to congregate in the city's parks over the weekend, despite an order to avoid nonessential gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.
"It's insensitive, it's arrogant, it's self-destructive, it's disrespectful and it has to stop now," Cuomo said. "This is not a joke, and I am not kidding."