New York's governor will sign executive order to allow redistribution of medical supplies to hospitals in need

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Dr. Deborah Birx said she can tell by looking at the US curve of coronavirus cases that not every American is following the guidelines set out by the administration for people to stay home and be vigilant about washing their hands.

Posted: Apr 3, 2020 4:51 PM
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 4:51 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign an executive order allowing the state to redistribute ventilators and medical supplies from institutions that don't need them now to medical facilities in parts of the state that do, he said Friday in a news conference.

The need for ventilators has grown as the number of coronavirus cases climbs, with more than 102,000 cases and 2,935 deaths statewide as of Friday morning, the governor said. Of those deaths, 562 people died in the last 24 hours -- the biggest single-day increase in deaths.

Supplies taken under the governor's order will be returned or those institutions reimbursed, Cuomo said.

"I'm not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state somewhere else," the governor said.

A day earlier, Cuomo had said the state has about six days left before it runs out of ventilators.

"It's like watching a slow-moving hurricane across the country, where you know the path that it's taking," the governor said Thursday. "Why not deploy the national resources and just stay ahead of the hurricane?"

At least 261,438 Americans have been infected, and nearly 6,700 have died. All states but Wyoming have reported deaths.

To slow the numbers' rise, the nation's top experts say aggressive social distancing measures are now more important than ever.

At this point, all states should issue stay-at-home orders, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"I don't understand why that's not happening," Fauci said during a CNN town hall Thursday. "If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that."

Though President Donald Trump has said he does not plan to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order, nearly all states have implemented their own in one form or another. The 10 that have not are: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Looking at the country's pace of new infections, it's clear not every American is following federal social distancing guidelines, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Thursday night.

"We're only as strong as every community, every county, every state, every American following the guidelines to a T," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said Thursday.

Like other countries, the US can slow the spread, she said. "But it means everybody needs to take that same responsibility."

Your coronavirus questions, answered

CDC sets advice for returning to normal

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends communities be evaluated for four consecutive weeks and demonstrate three achievements before starting to return to normal life, according to a senior federal health official who has seen the guidelines submitted to the White House coronavirus task force.

Those recommendations require communities demonstrate a decrease in cases and deaths; a decrease in Covid-19-associated hospitalizations while keeping the capacity to care for the sick; and the public health capacity to investigate and control the virus.

It's unclear if the White House task force has approved those recommendations or when the measuring of those benchmarks would begin. But they appear to be in line with Trump's announcement this week to extend federal social distancing measures for 30 days.

CNN has reached out to the CDC about the recommendations multiple times but has not received a response.

Additionally, other guidelines submitted to the task force by public health experts include "no new cases for 14 days" and "the ability to detect new clusters" for certain parts of community life to resume, according to the source.

The World Health Organization on Friday warned countries need to be wary of lifting widespread lockdown orders too quickly without a good transition strategy.

"We don't want to end up in a cycle of lockdown, followed by release, followed by another lockdown, followed by release," said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program. "That's not the way forward. And the way to avoid that is we need a transition strategy that gets us back into more control of the virus."

Virus can be spread through breathing, experts say

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asked residents of his state to wear a mask any time they leave their house for essential needs to help curb the spread of the virus.

"Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like that grocery store cashier, the pharmacist or someone stocking shelves," Wolf said in a news conference, while conceding that the masks are "not foolproof."

N95 and paper masks should be reserved for health care workers, the governor said.

New federal guidelines are also expected soon on wearing face masks, Trump said Thursday, adding that he didn't think the guidance would require Americans to use face covering, adding people who want to can "decide for themselves."

Trump's announcement came a day after a panel of experts told the White House that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes and coughs but also by talking and possibly breathing.

"While the current (coronavirus) specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing," according to a letter written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

Masks should not, however, replace social distancing, Fauci said on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" Friday

"Because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing, the better part of valor is that when you're out and you can't maintain that 6-foot distance to wear some sort of facial covering," Fauci said.

"So, this is an addendum and an addition to the physical separation," he added, "not a substitute for it."

Tracking the spread of coronavirus

The WHO on Friday stood by its recommendation that only individuals who are sick or caring for someone who is sick should wear masks. But Ryan said the organization would support individual countries making their own recommendations.

"But that doesn't negate the need for hand-washing. It doesn't negate the need for physical distancing. It doesn't negate the need for people to stay at home if there is a stay-at-home order in place," he said.

New York City's EMTs face tough decisions

In New York, the hardest-hit part of the country, an influx of emergency medical facilities has been aimed at relieving an overwhelmed health system.

Those include the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship that docked in New York Harbor to treat non-Covid-19 patients. But on Thursday night, reports emerged only 20 patients were on the ship, despite its 1,000-bed capacity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN's John Berman on Friday morning he had spoken to the Navy about the reports and said there was "no question" that the number would grow.

"I don't have a doubt in my mind, the Comfort's going to be filled up soon," the mayor said.

"We are conducting data analysis to see how we need to change our configuration. Bottom line: We've been here 48 hours, and this is a scenario no one has ever seen before," a Navy official familiar with the operations on the ship told CNN. "No one wants to get this wrong. We hear the feedback from medical professionals, and are fine-tuning."

Meantime, a medical facility set up at Manhattan's Javits Convention Center will now treat Covid-19 patients -- a reversal from its initial purpose of treating non-coronavirus patients.

"As it turned out, we don't have non-Covid people to any great extent in the hospitals," Cuomo said. "Hospitals have no turned into, effectively, ICU hospitals for Covid patients, so we wanted to convert Javits from non-Covid to Covid."

Meantime, new guidance offers a grim glimpse into New York City's dire circumstances.

New York City Emergency Medical Service (EMS) teams that cannot find or restart a pulse while administering CPR on adult cardiac arrest patients are instructed not to bring those patients to hospitals, according to a memo obtained by CNN and the chair of the regional emergency medical advisory committee familiar with the edict.

The new guidance, issued as a temporary change in response to the pandemic, is in place to help prevent the spread of the virus to EMS workers.

"In the event a resuscitation is terminated, and the body is in public view, the body can be left in the custody of NYPD," the memo states.

The city's hospitals, struggling to respond to patients constantly streaming in, have said a shortage of personal protective equipment is putting the medical workers on the front lines at risk of contracting the virus.

One third-year resident there said she goes to work feeling "like a sheep going to slaughter."

"My colleagues and I are writing our last will and testament. I'm 28 years old," Dr. Laura Ucik said. "We fear that we may not survive this pandemic and yet we show up every day to this hospital to take care of our community. We're running out of (personal protective equipment), we're running out of pain medicine, we're running out of sedatives, we're running out of oxygen masks."

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