- Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2020

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city’s hospitals were two to three weeks away from running out of essential medical supplies as coronavirus cases grew rapidly in the city and state Thursday.

A look at that and other developments in the outbreak.

MORE TESTING, MORE CASES

New York state’s coronavirus caseload is growing so fast that official counts quickly become obsolete. By Thursday evening, there were over 5,200, according to numbers released by the state and New York City. At least 26 people have died.

The number is growing partly because of a dramatic increase in testing. New York has cumulatively tested 22,000 people, including more than 7,500 in the past day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.



New York City is expanding appointment-only testing to 10 hospitals, seven community-based health centers and four drive-through sites, according to de Blasio.

At a drive-through on Staten Island, a trickle of motorists Thursday were directed to one of four large tents by state troopers wearing face masks. Workers at the tents wore full protective gear. One trooper told drivers through a speaker to keep their car windows up and a photo ID on their dashboards until they drove inside.

State officials said the testing site in the parking lot of a psychiatric facility will eventually expand to test hundreds of people a day.

Drive-through testing sites were set up this week in at least five locations in upstate New York. But in Erie County, the health commissioner said they had enough tests for appointments made through Thursday, but then they’ll be out.

COVID-19 causes mild symptoms in most people but can cause serious illness for some, including older adults and those with certain conditions such as respiratory illness. Most people recover.

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DWINDLING SUPPLIES

While officials expect the vast majority of coronavirus cases won’t require hospitalization, hospitals are bracing for an onslaught of patients, and officials are worried that medical centers will run out of key items needed to treat them.

“We are two weeks or three weeks away from running out of the supplies that we need most for our hospitals,” de Blasio said, ticking off a list of staggering numbers of items he said health care workers in the nation’s largest city needs by early April: 3 million masks, 50 million surgical masks, 15,000 ventilators, and 25 million each of surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves, and face masks.

He reiterated pleas for the federal government and U.S. military to help provide the items.

Cuomo has also said the state needs to acquire thousands of ventilators before the outbreak peaks.

“Every state is shopping for ventilators. … We literally have people in China shopping for ventilators which is one of the largest manufacturers,” the Democrat said at a news briefing.

Cuomo also called on the federal government to use its powers to order manufacturers to speed up production of both ventilators and protective equipment.

U.S. Army officials have promised that one combat support hospital and one field hospital will soon be deployed - and one of the likely locations is New York City.

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NEW WORK RESTRICTIONS

Cuomo is requiring businesses in New York to decrease their in-office workforce by 75%, tightening a 50% restriction he announced Wednesday.

Businesses providing certain services are exempt, including media, warehouses, grocery and food production facilities, pharmacies, health care providers, utilities and banks.

But Cuomo stressed that he is not going to impose martial law.

“Somehow, people have the idea that New York City may be quarantined, may be locked off, that they may be imprisoned in their own home,” Cuomo said. “None of that is going to happen.”

Cuomo said the current restrictions in New York - which include targeted business shutdowns and work-from-home rules - are “virtually identical” to rules in place around San Francisco. But without the ominous language.

“’Shelter in place’ is a scary term for people, especially when they don’t know what it means, and especially when you’re not doing what it means,” he said.

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CONCERN ABOUT PRISONERS, POLICE

De Blasio said Thursday that for the first time an inmate at Rikers Island has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus. He said the man, in his early 30s, is “doing OK” after being moved to isolation. Several other inmates were being checked for symptoms.

Several guards at the jail have tested positive. On Sunday, a civilian investigator for the jail agency died of the disease.

About 40 inmates with health vulnerabilities and who are believed to be at low-risk to re-offend have been put on a list to be released from city jails, de Blasio said.

The state’s prison system had at least two employees test positive, but no inmates.

At least 20 members of the New York Police Department have tested positive, the department said.

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LEGISLATOR TESTS POSITIVE

Speaker Carl Heastie said a third Assembly member, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Heastie said he has alerted the Department of Health that Jean-Pierre was in Albany Wednesday, though Heastie said she did not have any close contact with other members or staff.

Jean-Pierre is now self-quarantining at home, and her offices will be deep cleaned.

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PLANS FOR RELIEF

Cuomo said his administration has directed mortgage lenders to offer payment waivers for 90 days for borrowers facing financial hardship from the outbreak. Foreclosures also will be postponed or suspended.

Meanwhile, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed a $12 billion plan that would cover a temporary universal basic income for all city residents, unemployment benefits for gig economy workers and small business relief. The Democrat wants the federal government to pick up the tab, but said it could be funded locally by bonds.

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This story has been corrected to show that New York state has done more than 7,500 tests in the last day, not 8,000.

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Associated Press writer Mary Esch contributed. Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Jennifer Peltz contributed from New York.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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