NEW YORK – The New York governor said Saturday the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, highlighting the extreme measures leaders are taking in what has become a cutthroat scramble to independently secure enough lifesaving devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a sign of the disorganized response to the global crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the shipment of the breathing machines that was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday, while acknowledging that the U.S. government's stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short.
“We're all in the same battle here,” Cuomo said, noting Oregon also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”
Leaders have been forced to go outside normal channels and work with authoritarian governments and private companies.
The rush to secure supplies has prompted intense squabbling between the states and federal government at a moment the nation is facing one of its gravest emergencies.
Trump said states are making inflated requests for medical supplies when the need isn't there and suggested he had a hand in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York. Trump also said he'd like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Cuomo for providing medical supplies and helping quickly add hospital capacity.
“We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has ever been given in a long time,” he told a news conference in Washington.
While Massachusetts used the New England Patriots' team plane to pick up over a million masks from China, Russia has also sent medical equipment to the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump has said he'd prevent the export of N95 protective masks to Canada and other nations, prompting a rebuke from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said his country won't bring retaliatory measures as it continues to ship gloves and testing kits to the U.S.
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,100; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in New York state, including more than 1,900 in New York City. In addition to getting ventilators from China and Oregon, Cuomo ordered even private hospitals in the state to redistribute breathing machines to those most in need.
“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said, noting that while it's been roughly 30 days since the state's first case, “it feels like an entire lifetime.”
Trump said the federal government is setting up a 2,500-bed field hospital at New York's Javits Center, which will be staffed by the military. He said similar hospital projects are being built in Louisiana and Dallas.
“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn't done,” Trump said. He later added that the federal government is “a backup ... the greatest backup that ever existed for the states.”
In Puerto Rico, the suspected mismanagement of essential supplies during Hurricane Maria turned out to be a boon.
Health Secretary Lorenzo González said Saturday that officials discovered a cache of face masks, gloves, gowns and face shields at a hospital on the nearby island of Vieques that remains closed since the Category 4 storm hit the U.S. territory in September 2017.
As the number of people infected has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients. With the highest number of infections in Europe and their hospitals overwhelmed, Spain and Italy struggled to protect medical staff on the front lines, while 17 medics in Egypt's main cancer hospital tested positive for the virus.
Italy and Spain, with combined deaths of more than 25,000 and nearly a quarter-million infections, have reported a high percentage of infections among health care workers.
Carlo Palermo, head of Italy's hospital doctors' union, fought tears as he told reporters in Rome of the physical risks and psychological trauma the outbreak is causing, noting reports that two nurses had killed themselves.
“It's a indescribable condition of stress. Unbearable,” he said.
Overall, new infections continued to slow their once-exponential pace in Italy, with 4,805 new cases registered Saturday. And as Spain completes its third week in a state of emergency, there were signs the number of new infections was slowing, but it was still high, with 7,026 new cases reported overnight Saturday.
In the U.S., the more than 400 people have died in Louisiana, and state authorities have been sprinting to find ventilators similar to New York. Michigan has more than 14,000 infections and 500 deaths, with Detroit being the state's epicenter.
Worldwide, confirmed infections rose past 1.1 million and deaths exceeded 63,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say both greatly undercount the true number of victims because of lack of testing, mild cases that were missed and governments that are underplaying the crisis.
At the same time, more than 233,000 people have recovered from the virus.