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Cuomo Orders All Hospitals To Add Beds As New York Confirms 20,000 Coronavirus Cases

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that in his state — the U.S. epicenter for the coronavirus — the wave of new cases is still going up. Here, commuters wearing masks pass through New York City's Penn Station on Monday.
Mark Lennihan
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that in his state — the U.S. epicenter for the coronavirus — the wave of new cases is still going up. Here, commuters wearing masks pass through New York City's Penn Station on Monday.

New York state has confirmed 20,875 cases of the coronavirus — a jump of 5,700 cases that Gov. Andrew Cuomo says is because of his state's aggressive approach to testing. New York can now conduct more than 16,000 tests a day, the governor said.

As he announced those sobering numbers, Cuomo reiterated that New York, the U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, needs to sharply increase hospitals' capacity to treat patients. The governor escalated that call Monday, saying his office is issuing an emergency order to require all hospitals in the state to increase their capacity.

"You must increase your capacity by 50%," Cuomo said. "You must. Mandatory directive from the state. Find more beds, use more rooms."

The governor added that in addition to the required increase, New York requests that every hospital in the state boost its capacity by 100%.

New York currently has 53,000 hospital beds; it anticipates needing as many as 113,000 to cope with demand from COVID-19. The state has 3,000 ICU units; health officials say it needs at least 18,000 — and possibly as many as 37,000.

In New York state, 2,635 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized — 13% of the state's total. Of that figure, roughly a quarter of the people are in intensive care units.

Staffing is also a challenge — and to help ease the strain, Cuomo has joined other governments in calling for retired healthcare professionals, as well as qualified students from medical and nursing schools, to pitch in. Cuomo said some 30,000 people responded to the state's call to enlist in its coronavirus response team.

As he focused on adding hospital capacity, Cuomo also called for strict adherence to social distancing and public health policies, to slow the rise in cases.

"That trajectory is going up — the wave is still going up," Cuomo said. "We have a lot of work to do to get that rate down and get the hospital capacity up."

The worst-hit area in the state is New York City, with 12,305 cases — including more than 3,200 newly diagnosed people. Westchester County has nearly 3,000 cases.

In addition to easing the testing process for the coronavirus and moving toward a possible vaccine, health officials in New York and elsewhere are working to develop a way to test for antibodies that would indicate whether someone has already had COVID-19.

"We all believe thousands and thousands of people have had the virus and self-resolved," Cuomo said. "If you knew that, you would know who is now immune to the virus and who you could send back to work, et cetera."

Identifying New York as the leading state in the U.S. in terms of testing, Cuomo said, "As of yesterday, about 25% of all the testing nationwide is being produced right here."

To put the latest numbers in perspective: Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 15,219 coronavirus cases in all of the U.S.

Public and private labs in the U.S. have confirmed more than 40,000 coronavirus cases, according to a COVID-19 dashboard created by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, which reports coronavirus numbers in near real time.

Reiterating the importance of testing people and isolating those who are sick, Cuomo says New York is testing more people per capita than governments in China or South Korea.

"In 10 days, we have gone from testing 1,000 people a day to testing 16,000 people a day," he said.

Some 157 people have died from COVID-19 in New York, and nearly 500 overall in the U.S.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.