As Coronavirus Rages in US, New York Guards against Another Rise

News18
·3-min read

As coronavirus rages out of control in other parts of the US, New York is offering an example after taming the nation's deadliest outbreak this spring - while also trying to prepare in case another surge comes.

New York's early experience is a ready-made blueprint for states now finding themselves swamped by the disease. It could also come in handy at home, as the region readies for a potential second wave of infection that experts predict will likely come at some point.

Gov Andrew Cuomo has offered advice, ventilators, masks, gowns and medicine to states dealing with spikes in cases and hospitalizations and, in some places, rising deaths. Some health care workers are heading to other states to help fight the virus, reciprocating the influx that gave New York hospitals some much-needed relief just months ago.

At the same time, the Democratic governor has ordered travelers from more than a dozen states to quarantine for 14 days, while urging New Yorkers not to let up on wearing masks or social distancing.

Yet with the virus tearing through the South and West, Cuomo warned Friday it would eventually rear up again in New York.

"We're doing everything we can," he told WAMC radio, but "I can feel it coming." A widely cited University of Washington model doesn't project spikes - at least through its Nov. 1 time frame - in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, whose Democratic governors have coordinated on traveler quarantines and, earlier, some shutdown policies. But that doesn't mean the densely populated tri-state area is in the clear.

"We expect the virus to return in all of those states," said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

"The question is one of timing. As cases spiked in March and April, New York became the nation's coronavirus nightmare, with New York City at the crux of it. Statewide, over 18,000 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals at one point in April. Daily deaths peaked at 799 in April, and have totalled over 24,000.

Now, as states from Florida to Texas to California see new confirmed cases soar, hospitals fill up and daily death tolls hit new records, numbers have dropped precipitously in the tri-state region. New York reported six new deaths statewide Saturday, when hospitals were caring for a total of about 800 coronavirus patients.

While New York has been gradually reopening, it also has been quietly preparing to handle another surge if it comes.

After health workers in New York and elsewhere grappled with shortages of masks, gowns and other protective gear this spring, Cuomo said he would order hospitals to have a 90-day supply on hand.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would build its own reserve of ventilators, protective equipment and coronavirus test kits, identifying local suppliers and manufacturers rather than looking to federal authorities or global markets.

"We've learned a tough lesson that we have to create, and we have to protect ourselves," said de Blasio, a Democrat, who also said the city would stockpile as many as 18 million shelf-stable meals. Others are preparing, too.

Mount Sinai Hospital expanded from 94 intensive-care beds to 235 and converted an atrium and lobby into wards for less-critical patients at the height of the crisis. Now, it's developing a coronavirus playbook of sorts, so clinicians will have how-tos immediately at hand, said Dr. Roopa Kohli-Seth, who oversees intensive care.