New York to build eight temporary hospitals, braces for surge in patients, Cuomo says

(Reuters) - New York plans to build eight temporary hospitals to meet an expected surge in coronavirus patients, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday, and the state estimates that demand for hospital capacity will peak in three weeks.

Cuomo also took an apparent swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that New York was exaggerating its needs for resources to fight the outbreak and did not really need the 30,000 ventilators it has sought from the federal government.

“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but I don’t operate here on opinion,” the governor told reporters at a news conference. “I operate on facts and on data and on numbers and on projections.”

Cuomo, speaking against a backdrop of makeshift hospital beds at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, also said schools should remain closed for another two weeks until April 15th.

The governor has become a leading national voice on the coronavirus pandemic as the state has accounted for roughly one-third of the national death toll and half the known number of cases.

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Cuomo said 44,635 people have tested positive in New York, up about 7,400 from Thursday, and that 519 New Yorkers have died from the virus, up from the previous day’s total of 385 deaths.

“We are battling a deadly virus,” Cuomo said. “It’s the worst news but it’s not unexpected news either.”

Cuomo said the state was seeking to build another four temporary makeshift hospitals to add an additional 4,000 beds, which he called part of a plan B to try to make up for a shortage of medical resources. Cuomo said he was going to ask the White House to grant the request to build those additional resources.

Cuomo reiterated the state’s goal to get to 140,000 hospital bed capacity from the current 53,000 available.

He said that hospitalizations are increasing at a rate at which they double every four days, compared with three days last week. He said he believed there was a correlation between social distancing measures and the improved rate.

reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio