NEW YORK (AP) — The New York governor said Saturday the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, highlighting the extreme measures leaders are taking in what has become a cutthroat scramble to independently secure enough lifesaving devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a sign of the disorganized response to the global crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the shipment of the breathing machines that was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday, while acknowledging that the U.S. government’s stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short.
“We’re all in the same battle here,” Cuomo said, noting that the state of Oregon also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”
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Leaders like Cuomo have been forced to go outside normal channels and work with authoritarian governments and private companies.
The rush to secure supplies has prompted intense squabbling between the states and federal government at a moment the nation is facing one of its gravest emergencies.
Trump said states are marking inflated requests for medical supplies when the need isn’t there and suggested he had a hand in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York. Trump also said he’d like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Cuomo for providing medical supplies and helping quickly add hospital capacity.
“We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has ever been given in a long time,” he told a news conference in Washington.
While the state of Massachusetts used the New England Patriots’ team plane to pick up over a million masks from China, Russia has also sent medical equipment to the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump has said he’d prevent the export of N95 protective masks to Canada and other nations, prompting a rebuke from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said his country won’t bring retaliatory measures as it continues to ship gloves and testing kits to the U.S.
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,100; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in New York state, including more than 1,900 in New York City alone. In addition to getting ventilators from China and Oregon, Cuomo ordered even private hospitals in the state to redistribute breathing machines to those most in need.
“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said. “It’s only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime.”
Trump said the federal government is setting up a 2,500-bed field hospital at New York’s Javits Center, which will be staffed by the military. He said similar hospital projects are being built in Louisiana and Dallas.
“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn’t done,” Trump said. He later added that the federal government is “a backup ... the greatest backup that ever existed for the states.”
As the number of people infected has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients. In China, air raid sirens sounded across the country Saturday and flags flew at half staff in tribute to victims of the coronavirus pandemic, including the health care “martyrs” who have died fighting to save others.
With the highest number of infections in Europe and their hospitals overwhelmed, Spain and Italy struggled to protect medical staff on the front lines of the outbreak, while 17 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital tested positive for the virus.
Italy and Spain, with combined deaths of more than 25,000 and nearly a quarter-million infections, have reported a high percentage of infections among health care workers.
Carlo Palermo, head of Italy’s hospital doctors’ union, fought tears as he told reporters in Rome of the physical risks and psychological trauma the outbreak is causing, noting reports that two nurses had committed suicide.
“It’s a indescribable condition of stress. Unbearable,” he said.
Overall, new infections continued to slow their once-exponential pace in Italy, with 4,805 new cases registered Saturday that brought the country’s official count to 124,632. The death toll continued to mount, with 681 new victims bringing the world’s highest toll to 15,362.
In France, 7,560 people have died of coronavirus-related issues since the start of the outbreak in the country, including at least 2,028 in nursing homes, health director Jerome Salomon said. More than 440 of the overall deaths happened in the last 24 hours.
In the U.S., the outbreak is deepening in other areas beyond New York. More than 400 people have died in Louisiana, and state authorities have been sprinting to find ventilators similar to New York. Michigan has more than 14,000 infections and 500 deaths, with Detroit being the state’s epicenter.
In China, where the coronavirus was first detected in December, authorities have cautiously lifted restrictions amid dropping numbers of infections. On Saturday it reported just one new confirmed case in the epicenter of Wuhan and 18 others among people arriving from abroad. There were four new deaths for an official total of 3,326.