The United States coronavirus death count jumped more than 222 in 24 hours to total 780 fatalities among almost 55,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Among the 54,812 cases nationwide, as testing has ramped up, there are at least 26,348 confirmed cases in New York state alone, the epicenter of the global pandemic in the U.S. Globally, 422,614 confirmed cases and almost 19,000 deaths.
In New York City, the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. While officials once projected the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.
“We are not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own,” Cuomo said during a briefing at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. “One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
New York has also been the deadliest state hit by the pandemic, claiming 271 lives and 192 in New York City alone, per Johns Hopkins. Washington state’s case count (2,469) and death count (123) has leveled off after being the initially most highly infected area of the country, according to Worldometer, which uses Johns Hopkins data and recent media reports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.
Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.
New York officials have been racing to essentially double their hospital capacity to up to 110,000 beds. Cuomo now said there could be a peak need of 140,000 beds.
White House officials urged people who have left New York City amid the outbreak to self-quarantine for 14 days after their departure because of the widespread rate of infection.
New York officials are planning to add at least 1,000 temporary hospital beds at the Javits Center for non-COVID-19 patients and thousands of beds elsewhere. But Cuomo said “they’re nowhere near” the number that will be needed. The state also faces shortages of ventilators and protective equipment for medical workers.
New York has 7,000 ventilators, the breathing machines that can keep COVID-19 patients alive, and Cuomo says the city needs 20,000 more of them in a matter of weeks.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 4,000 ventilators were coming from the federal government in the next two days, with half going to the city.
But Cuomo said many more were needed, and he called Tuesday for a national push to send all available ventilators to New York immediately.
After the expected surge of patients in the state passes, those ventilators could then be redeployed to the next hot spot.
“I will take personal responsibility for transporting the 20,000 ventilators anywhere in this country that they want, once we are passed our apex,” Cuomo said. “But don’t leave them sitting in a stockpile.”
Peter Pitts, a former associate commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration and president of the New York-based Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, said ventilators — about the size of two old VCR machines — are certainly portable. But he said there would have to be regional or national coordination of such a surge.
Dr. Nicholas Hill, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said he was skeptical anyone with ventilators would be willing to give them up.
Asked if Tufts would temporarily lend out ventilators to New York, he responded succinctly, “Hell, no.”
“If we knew with certainty we could get them back when a spike was coming, I might be willing to talk more,” he said. “But no one is going to be able to guarantee that.”
He said that with what is going on in New York, “we have to think that we’re going to be next, and we don’t want to be caught with our pants down.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.