With a surge of COVID-19 patients expected in the coming days, the U.S. state of New York is in urgent need of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and health care workers, officials said Friday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo told a press briefing on Friday morning that he would issue an executive order that allows the state to take ventilators and PPE from institutions that do not currently need them, and the National Guard will be mobilized to move the equipment to where they are needed the most.
Those institutions will either get their ventilators back or they will be reimbursed for the equipment in the future.
"It is unbelievable to me that in New York State, in the United States of America, we can't make these materials and that we are all shopping from China to try to get these materials and we're all competing against each other. These are not complex materials and will work with New York manufacturers," said Cuomo.
The state is also trying to buy ventilators from China. "We are working with Alibaba, which has been very helpful to us," said the governor. "I spoke to Jack Ma and Mike Evans, who is the president. And they have been personally gracious and very, very helpful in trying to get us to source material from China."
Cuomo noted that New York state had its deadliest day yet since the coronavirus outbreak, with the death toll rising from 2,373 to 2,935 in 24 hours by Friday morning.
Over 102,000 cases were tallied in the state as of Friday evening local time. Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 have died of the coronavirus, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.
New York City has contributed to over half of the state's total cases and fatalities, which stood at 57,159 and 1,584, respectively.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city also needs 15,000 extra ventilators and 65,000 more hospital beds, including 20,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
He also said that if any private organization, company or individual has lifesaving supplies or equipment and refuses to share them, "I'm authorizing the NYPD (New York Police Department) to ensure these items are turned over and brought to where the need is greatest," he tweeted, adding that it's following the governor's order.
A total of 45,000 additional medical personnel are in need in the city, as some doctors and nurses are unable to carry on working due to infection of COVID-19 themselves or excessive fatigue.
"We're bringing on 3,600 contracted health workers and nearly 1,000 volunteers-they'll just be the first wave," said the mayor on Twitter.
Some 21,000 out-of-state individuals have volunteered to work in New York state's healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Cuomo on Thursday's briefing.
More people wearing masks are seen on the street in New York City as the mayor advised New Yorkers to wear a face covering when outside and near others.
"It can be a scarf, a bandana or one you make at home. But please: save medical masks for our health care workers &first responders who truly need them," said de Blasio on Thursday.
He said covering one's face is an added precaution to protect others in case one has contracted COVID-19 but doesn't demonstrate symptoms.
Starting on Friday, all New Yorkers can get three free meals at hundreds of sites across the city amid the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
"Anyone who needs food, anyone who's hungry, can come to these 435 sites. You can get all three meals for yourself and your family for free," said de Blasio on Thursday. "There's no charge, and no one will be turned away."
New York City's Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said Friday that the city is not conducting "contact tracing," which was recommended by the World Health Organization in order to find more COVID-19 positive patients.
She said the city is now in the phase of mitigation instead of containment, and contact tracing is "not a good use of our resources" as hundreds, if not thousands of new cases, are reported every day.
"(In) 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," she added.