COVID-19 pandemic not short-term situation, could last 4-9 mths: NY Gov

Yoshita Singh

New York, Mar 22 (PTI) New York has now over half of all coronavirus cases in the US and the highest number of deaths in the country, with state Governor Andrew Cuomo warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a short-term situation and could last for about 4-9 months.

The US currently has 29,192 coronavirus cases and 374 deaths.

Cuomo, addressing a press conference on Sunday, said that the New York state now has 15,168 cases of coronavirus and 114 deaths.

'The numbers are still going up. We are trying to turn the trajectory but as of now the numbers are continuing to increase. What we are working very hard to do is to keep the rate of increase of the spread of the disease to a level that we can manage it in our hospital system,' he said.

Cuomo pointed out that New York is testing more people than any other state in the country and per capita, more than any country on the globe, describing it as a 'positive accomplishment'.

He, however, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a short-term situation and while there is no 'crystal ball' to predict how long it will last, it could be anywhere in the range of 4-9 months.

'It's going to go on for a period of time. This is not a short-term situation. This is not a long weekend. This is not a week. The timeline nobody can tell you, it depends on how we handle it. But 40 per cent up to 80 per cent of the population will wind up getting this virus,' he said.

Cuomo stressed that it is essential to slow the spread of the virus but cautioned that it will spread because 'it is that contagious'.

'Again, that's nothing to panic over,' he said, adding that most people who get the virus will self-resolve.

'But it's going to work its way through society... but it is going to be four months, six months, nine months,' the governor said.

Citing the example of China, Cuomo said Beijing changed the trajectory of the virus which the US has not done yet.

'Eight months, we're in that range. Nobody has a crystal ball, nobody can tell you' when this will last, he said.

Cuomo added that he has spoken to more people on this issue than 99 per cent of the people in this country.

'No one can tell you, not from the superb doctor Fauci, to the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute of Health, but it is in that range. So, start to plan accordingly,' he said, making a reference to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

He assured that New York is doing everything it can to expand hospital capacity.

'We are asking all NYS hospitals to increase the capacity by 100 per cent -- regulations have been waived. We are ordering that every hospital MUST increase capacity by at least 50 per cent. Every hospital must do its part to expand capacity,' he said.

The state currently has 53,000 hospital beds available and the virus curve suggests that there could be a need of 110,000 hospital beds 'and that is an obvious problem'.

After touring sites on Saturday, Cuomo said he is asking the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately erect temporary hospitals in four locations.

'I'm also asking for four 250-bed Federal Emergency Management Agency field hospitals,' he added. PTI YAS CPS