The National Guard has begun installing four hospital units for coronavirus patients inside the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.
Dozens of troops arrived at the sprawling 1.3 million-square-foot convention center on Monday morning, hours after Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump confirmed plans to set up 1,000 beds inside.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is slated to oversee the set-up of four separate wings with 250 beds each, and will also staff and stock the facility with medical supplies.
‘This is literally a matter of life and death,’ Cuomo said Sunday. ‘[If] we get these facilities up, we get the supplies, we will save lives. If we don’t, we will lose lives. That is the simple fact of this matter.
‘From my point of view, construction can start tomorrow. There is no red tape on the side of New York.’
New York City is now the focal point of America’s outbreak, with more than 12,000 of the almost 42,000 confirmed cases in the US and 100 of the nation’s 576 deaths as of Monday.
Cuomo toured the Javits Center on Monday and held a press conference there, where he said the Big Apple is still in ‘the calm before the storm’.
‘This is going to get much worse before it gets better. You’re going to see more people coming into the health system than we can handle,’ he said.
‘Once we get through that, we’ll focus like a laser on the economy.’
Cuomo said ‘first order of business’ was to stop the public health emergency, rather than fixing the economy.
‘We can fix everything else, but we can’t fix loss of health,’ he said.
In addition to the Javits Center, Cuomo also asked the federal government to set up makeshift hospitals at the Westchester Convention Center, to accommodate the cluster of coronavirus cases in New Rochelle, and at the state universities in Stony Brook and Old Westbury, Long Island.
President Trump confirmed the Javits Center efforts after Cuomo made his public request, but did not mention the other three locations.
Cuomo has warned that the state will need to increase its hospital capacity by at least 100 percent if the virus continues spreading at its current rate.
He predicted that 80 percent of New York’s 19 million residents will become infected over the next nine months.
The governor issued an order on Sunday requiring all hospitals in the state to increase capacity by at least 50 percent, with a goal of 100 percent.
He said the state currently has about 53,000 hospital beds available and expects that some 110,000 will be needed when the outbreak reaches its peak.
Trump issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for New York, California and Washington – the three states with the highest number of coronavirus cases.
‘The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stocks pile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas,’ the president said at a White House press briefing.
‘Through FEMA, the federal government will be funding 100 percent of the cost of deploying national guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus while those governors remain in command.
‘We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.’
Trump also said Sunday he’d ordered FEMA to ship mobile hospital centers to all three states, along with supplies such as gloves, hospital beds, N95 masks and gowns.
His administration emphasized that the deployment of guard members is not martial law, but the president invoked martial language as he discussed the development.
‘I’m a wartime president,’ Trump said. ‘This is a war — a different kind of war than we’ve ever had.’
At least 7,300 National Guard members have already been deployed to all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico to help with coronavirus relief efforts by distributing food, sanitizing public areas and building temporary screening centers and medical facilities.
The Javits Center set-up comes as:
- The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US climbed to 39,408 on Monday, including 477 deaths
- Gov Cuomo announced that trials will begin tomorrow for the anti-malaria drug touted as a potential ‘miracle’ coronavirus treatment
- Democrats blocked the $2trillion phase three coronavirus economic stimulus package again, even though Republicans claimed ahead of the vote that they were proposing a bipartisan bill
- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards claimed his state has the fastest growing cases of coronavirus in the world
- 10 states have issued stay-at-home orders affecting millions of Americans across the country
- The Dow erased all gains since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 as it plunged 900 points on Monday