This is a war: Cuomo warns coronavirus could overwhelm New York healthcare

New York has been hit hardest, with around confirmed 3,000 cases, but governor estimates there could be tens of thousands more cases

New Yorks governor, Andrew Cuomo, warned on Thursday morning that he expects the healthcare system in the state to be overwhelmed as cases of coronavirus increase, as the first drive-through testing site in New York City readied for action.

As the state hardest hit with the most cases, now ahead of Washington state and California, New York has about 3,000 confirmed cases and 21 deaths so far, but Cuomo estimated there could be tens of thousands of as-yet unconfirmed cases.

He asked 75% of the workforce in the state, outside of essential public and health services, to work from home.

Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro)

NY Governor orders 75 percent of the states workforce to stay home. pic.twitter.com/a60OUvDUXd

March 19, 2020

The stress is just incredible, and rightfully so, he said, acknowledging the bewildering disruption to daily life for most of the states 19 million population.

The army corps of engineers has been activated by the federal government to help built emergency hospital facilities and the government is preparing two hospital ships.

This is a war, we have to treat it like a war. And in a war you need the federal government, states do not fight wars, well they did once [the civil war] and that was a big mistake, he told NBCs Today program on Thursday morning.

Cuomo said the state, with a population of 19 million, needed equipment, equipment, equipment. After a vicious spat with Donald Trump that spilled out on Twitter in recent days, Cuomo on Thursday said: The federal government recognizes [the need] and is mobilizing now and thats a very positive step.

The healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed. The question is to what extent and with what consequence. We are going to have more patients than we can deal with. Were trying to build more facilities with the army corps of engineers, we need more equipment, he said.

On Thursday the first drive-through coronavirus testing facility in New York City was set to begin operation in tents erected on Staten Island, the island borough of the city that lies out in the harbor off the tip of Manhattan, beyond the Statue of Liberty.

The tests are conducted only by appointment with the state health department.

In parts of New York and the neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut, and many other places in the US, some large supermarket chains are opening early and designating between 90 minutes and two hours of shopping time for those aged 60 or over only, to avoid what one customer said was pushing and shoving for basics during normal hours.

On Thursday morning at a press conference, Cuomo said the efforts in the state were directed at three priorities simultaneously: flattening the curve ie intervening to reduce the number of cases, slowing the spread of Covid-19 and increasing hospital capacity.

New York state tested 8,000 people for the coronavirus overnight in what may be the largest batch of testing to date in the United States, probably leading to a spike in positive cases once results come in, the governor warned.

The US has more than 9,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, a number which has increased around four fold in the last week.

An empty Times Square is seen on the street following the outbreak of coronavirus disease in New York City. Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

Meanwhile US researchers, following the lead of scientists in other countries, have launched studies to see whether widely available, low-cost generic drugs can be used to help treat the illness caused by the new coronavirus strain at the heart of this pandemic, known as Covid-19.

There are currently no vaccines or treatments for the highly contagious respiratory illness, so patients can only receive supportive care for now.

But a 1,500-person trial, led by the University of Minnesota, began this week to see whether the malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of Covid-19. Two other trials are studying the blood pressure drug losartan as a possible treatment for the disease.

The malaria drug, also being tested in China, Australia and France, was touted earlier this week by the Tesla chief executive, Elon Musk, who recovered from malaria in 2000 after taking the medication.

Besides having a direct antiviral effect, hydroxychloroquine suppresses the production and release of proteins involved in the inflammatory complications of several viral diseases.

We are trying to leverage the science to see if we can do something in addition to minimizing contacts, said Dr Jakub Tolar, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and vice-president for clinical affairs. Results are likely in weeks, not months.

Most people infected with the new coronavirus develop only mild flu-like symptoms, but about 20% can have more severe disease that can lead to pneumonia requiring hospitalization, a higher rate than normal for a viral illness.

The fast-spreading virus, which emerged in China in December and is now in more than 150 countries, has infected more than 214,000 and killed over 8,700 people worldwide, including at least 145 in the United States. Experts say it could take a year or more to have a preventive vaccine ready, so effective treatments are desperately needed.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/coronavirus-new-york-cuomo-healthcare-overwhelmed-please

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