New York governor Andrew Cuomo reported 15,168 cases of Covid-19 in the state, with 9,045 cases originating in New York City.
That count of coronavirus victims puts the US state ahead of South Korea (8,897 cases), the UK (5,683), and several EU countries, all of which have been testing more than the US.
Cuomo warned that the state health system is under stress and called on the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary hospitals at the Jacob K. Javits Center (a large convention site), two State University of New York campuses, and in Westchester County during a news conference today. He also requested that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency build four federal hospitals at the Javits Center.
Cuomo said the federal government should use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce more masks and medical supplies. Cities across the US are running low on masks and ventilators, forcing hospital staff to take drastic measures, such as reusing masks.
“This is just an impossible situation to manage,” said Cuomo. “If we don’t get the equipment, we can lose lives that we could have otherwise saved if we had the right equipment.”
It’s hard to say if New York really has more cases than other parts of the country because it has also been testing more aggressively than elsewhere in the nation. Cuomo said on March 20 that 10,000 new coronavirus tests had been processed overnight, bringing the state’s total number of tests to 32,427.
By comparison, California, which has roughly twice the population of New York state, had only conducted 23,200 tests as of Friday. Washington state, where the first case of coronavirus in the US was reported, had performed more than 27,121 tests as of Saturday.
Given the varying levels of testing, the number of individuals confirmed to have Covid-19 may no longer be an accurate assessment of how hard a region has been hit by the virus.
Faced with a limited number of tests, many countries have strictly limited who can qualify for a coronavirus test. France and Belgium, for example, only test the severely ill. Los Angeles County health officials advised doctors to skip testing of patients who are healthy enough to be sent home to self-quarantine. The New York City Department of Health has also directed healthcare facilities to stop testing non-hospitalized patients for coronavirus.