The death toll in New York, the state hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, surpassed 3,500 on Saturday — recording 630 deaths in 24 hours, outpacing previous days, as President Trump urged states to share extra ventilators with those most in need while characterizing the federal stockpile as just a “backup.”
The government will be deploying 1,000 military doctors and nurses to New York City, “the hottest of all the hot spots,” along with ventilators from the national stockpile, Trump said.
“If states have ventilators they know they’re not going to need, we should move them over,” he said, singling out Oregon as the first state to have stepped up.
By Saturday, the number of confirmed cases in New York rose to 113,704, bringing the U.S. total to 8,326 fatalities and 306,866 cases.
“This will probably be the toughest week, between this week and next week,” Trump said. “And there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.”
His remarks came as part of the White House coronavirus task force daily briefing. He said the federal government is working to ensure that supplies are delivered “when and where they are needed.” He signaled to governors who make what he characterized as “inflated requests” that if they don’t get what they requested, it’s because “we don’t think you need it.”
“We want distributions to be made on a fair basis,” Trump said. “We have to take care of a large country, not just certain areas of the country.”
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) forecast that the apex of the outbreak looms “somewhere in the seven-day range” and warned at a news conference Saturday that the state lacked enough ventilators for the next few weeks, in contrast with Trump’s comment Friday that New York was “well served with ventilators.”
Cuomo said there was one respite from the dismal statistics: China has promised the state 1,000 ventilators, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has pledged another 140.
Cuomo called Oregon’s donation “astonishing and unexpected” and promised his state will return the favor “double fold.”
“The 140 ventilators will make a difference,” Cuomo said. “If you look at the projections, Oregon could have a significant problem towards May. Our problem is now. So it’s also smart from Oregon’s self-interest. They see the fire spreading. Stop the fire where it is before it gets to my home.”
Brown, in an interview Saturday, said “tiny, little Oregon” decided to ship 140 ventilators — its entire state supply outside of the 40 held by the Oregon National Guard — because it could afford to be generous at this time.
“We are kind right now because we can afford to be,” Brown said. “I hope it inspires other states that are in good or safe positions to be generous as well. As states, we are all in this together. We’re going to have to help each other out.”
Oregon hospitals have 762 ventilators, 38 of which are being used by patients with covid-19, she said.
The state, which discovered its first covid-19 case on Feb. 28, had 999 cases as of Saturday, with 26 deaths reported. Brown said early restrictions — limiting access to nursing homes, limiting large gatherings, shutting down bars and restaurants, and implementing a stay-at-home order — have slowed the transmission of the virus.
“Oregonians have been extremely cooperative under extremely difficult circumstances, and right now we have the ability to help out because we are in a position to do so,” Brown said. “Our peak is projected to be a few weeks out. Obviously we are all nervous, but right now, Oregonians want to help.”
The donation from China was facilitated by the national government and business moguls Jack Ma, who owns Alibaba; Joe Tsai, an Alibaba co-founder who owns the Brooklyn Nets; and China’s consul general in New York, Huang Ping, Cuomo said.
While Cuomo praised the offer, he said the state previously ordered 17,000 ventilators from China that “never came through.”
“We had signed documents. We placed the order,” he said. “It all goes back to China, which long term, we have to figure out why we ended up in this situation.”
The state has reported 10,841 new cases in the past day. Cuomo said while two-thirds of patients hospitalized in the state so far have been discharged, about 15,900 people are still in hospitals and the outbreak’s peak lies ahead.
“By the numbers, we’re not yet at the apex. We’re getting closer,” Cuomo said, adding that although predictions vary for when it might hit, state officials think it might be about a week away. “I want to get to the other side of the apex, and let’s just slide down that mountain.”
Trump said Saturday that he spoke with Cuomo and assured him that “we’re working very hard to get additional things to New York as quickly as possible.”
New York has also received 4,400 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile as of April 3, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency said FEMA and Health and Human Services by Friday had also delivered 850 ventilators to New Jersey, 500 to Washington state, 450 to Illinois, 400 to Michigan, 170 to California, 150 to Louisiana, 140 to Oregon, 120 to Maryland and 50 to Connecticut.
In addition, the agency said it’s in the process of delivering 300 more ventilators, a public health “strike team” and a 250-bed federal medical station to Michigan; a 50-bed federal medical station for the D.C. area; 200 ventilators to Louisiana; and 100 ventilators to Massachusetts.
Trump said the agencies are closely monitoring the number of ventilators states have and their usage to determine how best to distribute the 10,000 in the nation’s stockpile.
Trump said that the government has to be ready to respond to other hot spots that suddenly flare up. “They hit you like you got hit by a club — an area that wasn’t at all bothered,” he said. “When the brunt of it comes, it’s coming quickly.”
In New Jersey, reports of 200 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday pushed the statewide toll past the number of residents killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said.
A total of 841 people in New Jersey have died of covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus — 100 more residents than died on 9/11.
“Let that sink in for just a moment,” Murphy said. “This pandemic is writing one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history.”
The governor also announced 846 new coronavirus cases, which brought the state’s total to 34,124.
Murphy said state officials recently helped federal authorities uncover a hoarding case and recover supplies that will go to health-care workers in New Jersey and New York. New Jersey will get 70,000 N95 masks, 5,000 gloves and other personal protective equipment from the seized supply, he said.
Trump on Saturday said he was using the Defense Production Act “very powerfully” — saying that the federal government has ordered 180 million N95 masks.
The White House late Thursday had ordered 3M, a Minnesota-based company that manufactures masks, to prioritize U.S. orders over foreign demand, using its authority under the Defense Production Act to try to ease critical shortages.
“We need the masks. We don’t want other people getting it,” Trump said on Saturday. “You could call it retaliation …. If people don’t give us what we need for our people, we’re going to be very tough.”
He also reiterated his desire for the country to return to business as usual as soon as possible, against the advice of public health experts.
“We want to finish this war,” he said. “We have to get back to work. We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months.”
Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated during Saturday’s White House briefing that mitigation is working across the country, but the risk of a resurgence of the coronavirus is real.
“That is our most important tool,” Fauci said, of mitigation. “We will be talking about vaccines and drugs and things like that, that will mitigate later, but this is what we have to do … As sobering and as difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference.”
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And as the United States continues to want to see “some degree of normality,” Fauci said the main focus of the White House coronavirus task force is looking at the number of new coronavirus cases that continue to arise.
While there will be an increase of deaths at the end of this week and into the next, according to Fauci, it is the number of new coronavirus cases that will indicate how the country is trending.
“We are going to pay close attention to that,” Fauci said. “Hopefully the kinds of mitigation we are talking about is going to have the impact.”
Samantha Pell contributed to this report.
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