ALBANY — New York will be getting four medical stations each equipped to take in 250 patients along with a 1,000-bed hospital ship to address the state's dire need to  respond to the surge in COVID-19 patients, President Donald Trump said Sunday.

Trump's announcement came as the number of people who have been infected by the virus climbed to 15,168.

Trump also announced the federal government will cover the full 100% of the costs of deploying the National Guard in New York, approving a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the 25% fee normally charged to states would be waived.

The downstate region has become the nation's epicenter for the contagion.

Trump said the additional 2,000 hospital beds will arrive in New York "within the next 48 hours," with the medical stations headed for the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said his administration is also extending the approval for emergency aid and National Guard deployment to California and the state of Washington. Those two states and New York represent the three that have seen the greatest threat from COVID-19.

The White House also said it has approved New York's request for federal funding for crisis counseling.

“We’re enduring a great national trial, and we will prove that we can meet the moment,” Trump said.

The federal decision to approve a disaster declaration for New York is expected to open access to federal funding and emergency protective measures for state, tribal and local governments impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to use existing law to order private companies to manufacture ventilators, masks and hospital gowns needed to deal with an expected surge of hospital admissions connected to the COVID-19 contagion.

The state now pays $7 for surgical masks that used to cost just 85 cents because they have become so scarce, Cuomo said. The state has even purchased sewing machines so it can begin turning out its own masks and hospital gowns, he said.

Cuomo also said he is ordering all New York hospitals to come up with a plan to expand existing capacity by at least 50 percent.

The state now has 53,000 hospital beds. The latest projections suggest the state needs 110,000 beds to deal with the virus, he said.

The governor said the trajectory of the spread suggests between 40 to 80 percent of New Yorkers will end up becoming ill from the virus.

The health threat could continue for another four to nine months, he estimated, though he admitted he has "no crystal ball."

“It’s nothing to panic over,” the governor said. "Unless you are older with an underlying illness, it’s something you are going to resolve. It’s going to work its way through society."

"It is going to be OK,” Cuomo said. "Life will go on."

According to state data, 70% of the virus-linked fatalities in New York involved persons who were at least 70 years old. Those deaths include 15 people who were at least 90; 36 people who were at least 80 but not yet 90; and 29 people who were at least 70 but not yet 80.

But Cuomo stressed that hundreds of young people have been infected, contending there is a widespread fallacy among younger people that they are immune.

Cuomo argued federal intervention is needed because states are now competing among themselves by bidding up the price for critical equipment, transforming the marketplace into one rife with price-gouging. Increasing the supply of gear needed by hospital workers and first responders.

For state governments, he said, "This is just an impossible situation to manage. If we don't get the equipment, we can lose lives that we could have otherwise saved if we had the right equipment."

The financial impact to the state treasury has been devastating, he said.

"I'm spending money right now we don't have," said Cuomo in making the case for immediate federal aid.

The total number of people who have died in New York — the nation's epicenter for the health crisis — has now reached  114, Cuomo said..

Out of the 15,168 positive cases, 1,974 people have been admitted to hospitals — a rate of 13%, Cuomo said.

Also, beginning Wednesday, all non-critical, elective surgeries across the state will be indefinitely postponed to help hospitals absorb more patients who will need treatment for the virus.

Cuomo also said there are promising indications a combination of drugs used to treat people stricken by malaria has proven to be effective in treating COVID-19. The state, he said, has gained federal approval to begin using those drugs on COVID-19 patients.

The number of infections in the downstate region has climbed exponentially in recent days.

   

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

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