Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, speaks at a news conference as the USNS Comfort hospital ship arrives at Pier 90 in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 30, 2020.
Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images
New York City is about to get a surge of coronavirus cases in the coming days and still doesn’t have enough ventilators or health-care workers to make it through next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
He’s authorized local police and fire departments and the sheriffs’ office to help city health officials obtain ventilators from private doctors offices and companies, he said. The city also needs 45,000 additional medical personnel and 65,000 extra hospital beds, including 20,000 ICU beds, he said. Local hospitals are rationing their protective equipment to stretch it out through next week, he said.
“We have gotten some ventilators in, but right now, we’re struggling to have enough for next week,” he said, adding that the city needs 15,000 additional ventilators to get through April and May. There are currently more than 57,100 cases in New York City and at least 266,000 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. “About a quarter of all the cases in this entire country are right here in New York City. And we’re the tip of the spear, and everyone I talk to in Washington acknowledges it. We’re about to hit a huge surge in these coming days. They all know it.”
De Blasio reiterated his call on the federal government to help secure necessary supplies. He thanked President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, saying he spoke with them this morning and they shipped 200,000 medical masks to the city by the afternoon. The city needs far more than that to get through the crush of coronavirus patients expected over the next few weeks, he said.
“We’re in the middle of a war. A war against an invisible enemy,” de Blasio said, calling on the federal government to help.
On staffing, de Blasio said the city has secured 3,635 additional medical personnel but it needs at least 3,600 more, 430 volunteer medical workers have been approved by the city, 481 health-care workers have come from the NYC Medical Reserve Corps and online portal Federal Staffing. The city has asked the federal government to provide 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 doctors.
Another factor complicating staffing, he said, are the number of health-care workers who are getting sick from the coronavirus or who are burned out by working so many long hours. Other city officials have said that a high volume of first responders have been calling out sick.
“We’re losing a lot of health-care workers to the disease for a period of time, and some of them have worked themselves to the bone and they need a break,” he said.
NYC Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said the city isn’t doing “contact tracing” as recommended by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That requires health officials to track down all known contacts of an infected person and quarantine them for at least 14 days to try to contain the outbreak.
“The overall trend is that this is not slowing down,” she said, adding that contact tracing isn’t a good use of the city’s resources when there are hundreds, if not thousands of new cases a day. She said the city isn’t trying to contain the virus any more, officials are trying to mitigate its impact. “The mitigation phase when there is no proven treatments, when there is no vaccination, the most effective way to slow the spread of an outbreak is through social distancing.”
“We are past the point of contact tracing,” she added.