ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hospitalizations from COVID-19 were rising faster than expected in New York as residents and leaders prepared for a peak in cases that is expected to still be weeks away. Temporary hospitals, and even a morgue in Manhattan, are being setup.
Here's a look at developments in the coronavirus outbreak in New York on Wednesday.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York climbed to 3,800, including close to 900 in intensive care, with the peak of the outbreak weeks away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The hospitalizations came as the state tallied more than 30,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths, most tied to New York City.
The critical question remains whether the severe “social distancing” restrictions recently enacted by New York will help the state avoid a worst-case scenario of overwhelmed hospitals. Cuomo at a state Capitol news briefing pointed to one possible early sign the restrictions might be working.
While the hospitalization figures are alarming, the ferocious growth has slowed over the last several days. For instance, on Sunday, hospitalizations were doubling every two days; by Tuesday they were doubling every 4.7 days, he said.
"This is a very good sign, and a positive sign,” he said. “Again, I'm not 100% sure it holds or it is accurate. But the arrows are headed in the right direction.”
New York officials are keeping a close eye on already-stressed hospitals as the number of cases is projected to rise for perhaps three more weeks. Cuomo said as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed in a state with 53,000. Having enough ICU beds with ventilators is a particular concern.
“The actual hospitalizations have moved at a higher rate than the projected models,” Cuomo said. “Because that higher infection rate means faster, higher capacity on the hospitals.”
Several temporary hospitals are planned in the New York City area, a Navy hospital ship is being deployed and existing hospitals are increasing capacity by at least 50%.
New York City has become such a hotspot in the pandemic that White House officials urged people who have left the city amid the outbreak to self-quarantine for 14 days after their departure.
Cuomo believes the high number of cases in the city is partly because it is a worldwide travel destination, and partly due to its density.
“That spatial closeness makes us vulnerable,” he said. “But it's true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. Our closeness is what makes us who we are.”
New York City is building a temporary morgue to deal with an expected influx of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner said Tuesday that the refrigerated structures and mobile command center going up in Manhattan were meant to provide emergency capacity if the city’s permanent morgues fill up.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said as part of the city’s state of emergency, the medical examiner’s office was enacting “emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome” of the public health crisis.
The medical examiner’s office has used temporary morgues in the past, including in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
RETIREMENT COMMUNITY DEATHS
A Long Island retirement community said Wednesday that a sixth resident has died of the new coronavirus.
Peconic Landing in Greenport said the 89-year-old man died Tuesday night at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where he was taken after testing positive Sunday.
The facility said then man lived in an independent living section and had no known pre-existing conditions.
Peconic Landing announced the deaths of four residents last week, followed by a fifth on Monday.
Michael R. Sisak contributed from New York City.