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New York Officials Say Ventilators Are Missing Piece Of Coronavirus Response

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

More than 500 people in New York state have died so far in the pandemic. That number grows every day.

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BILL DE BLASIO: David Perez, an investigator at the Department of Correction, Kious Kelly, a nurse on the front line of this struggle, and Dez-Ann Romain, principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy. Everyone's feeling these losses deeply.

SIMON: That was Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City.

North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann joins us now with the latest from the state. Brian, thanks for being with us.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And any signs that efforts to contain the spread in New York have helped?

MANN: You know, public health officials think they are bending the growth rate of cases down a bit. Social distancing and better tracking of cases seems to be helping. But with all that, the number of new people sick with COVID-19 is still rising, a trajectory that's dangerous here - more than 44,000 people sick. And Governor Andrew Cuomo says tens of thousands more could be hospitalized in just the next few weeks.

SIMON: President Trump has challenged Governor Cuomo on this, saying that New York may not see as many sick people as predicted. He's also saying the state may already have enough ventilators, some distributed by the federal government. How's the governor respond to that?

MANN: Yeah, Governor Cuomo and state officials here say ventilators are still the missing piece of this emergency response. There's a massive underway - effort underway here, Scott, to expand hospital capacity to take this overflow of sick patients. Thousands of retired medical personnel have volunteered to help. And Cuomo said yesterday they do have some of these ventilators in reserve, ready to be deployed as needed, but nowhere near enough.

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ANDREW CUOMO: I don't operate here on opinion. I operate on facts and on data and on numbers and on projections. All the projections say you could have an apex needing 140,000 beds and about 40,000 ventilators.

MANN: And I should say that President Trump did shift on this yesterday, saying he's going to use the Defense Production Act to order General Motors to make more of these ventilators. Although GM said it was already moving forward on that, this is something Cuomo has been urging Trump to do. So we'll see if this ramps up production.

SIMON: And these ventilators wouldn't just be needed in New York, right? They'd almost certainly spread out through the country eventually.

MANN: Yeah, that's right. What Governor Cuomo keeps saying is that New York is going first, kind of the harbinger that the rest of the country needs to be watching closely. Health officials say a lot of these devices will be needed if we're going to keep people alive in places where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly.

SIMON: And, Brian, do we have any idea what could be the next hot spots?

MANN: Yeah, we're already seeing the number of cases rise fast in Detroit, Scott. And New Jersey, right next-door to New York City - they've seen a big surge of COVID-19 cases just in the last couple of days - roughly 9,000 people sick now, more than a hundred dead.

But one troubling thing still is that we don't have enough testing to know how widespread the virus is nationwide. And that makes it hard to know how many of these ventilators are going to be needed, and also where exactly they're going to be needed next.

SIMON: Brian Mann watching developments in New York state today. Brian, thanks so much.

MANN: All right, Scott. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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