NY secures 2M masks, 6,000 ventilators as cases top 10,000

New York officials have identified about 2 million medical-grade masks and 6,000 ventilators to help battle surging COVID-19 cases as the state's novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a federal disaster area.


The masks, called N-95, are used to protect medical workers from the virus that is spreading rapidly and threatening to overwhelm hospitals, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.


The lifesaving ventilators are being purchased as part of a push to scour the globe for the breathing systems to avoid expected shortages in New York, Cuomo said.


New York's scramble to buy more medical supplies came as authorities moved to lockdown communities statewide, banning all nonessential travel.


"Everything that can be done is being done," Cuomo said during a press briefing Saturday morning.


New York's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 10,356 as of Saturday morning, up 3,254 over the past day. Cuomo said the rising cases are a result of ramped up testing, with 45,400 coronavirus tests in this month.


Further, Cuomo said authorities are pursuing plans to convert facilities into temporary hospitals, including the Westchester County Convention Center in White Plains, to treat the expected rise in patients in coming weeks and months.


New York is also requiring its residents to stay at home to the maximum extent possible, banning nonessential travel and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria.


The new restrictions take effect 8 p.m. Sunday, banning all non-essential gatherings of individuals "of any size for any reason."


What federal disaster declaration means for New York COVID-19 battle


President Donald Trump late Friday declared the novel coronavirus has caused a major disaster in New York, freeing up billions of dollars and other federal government aid to battle the virus.


The disaster declaration unlocks New York state’s access to the $42.6 billion federal Disaster Relief Fund and provides the Federal Emergency Agency, or FEMA, with resources and authority to address the outbreak in New York, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.


“With more and more cases confirmed in New York each day, it’s imperative that the federal government does everything within its power to support New York in the state effort to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus,” Schumer said in a statement.


“We’re at a vital point in the battle against the disease, and we need to do everything in our power to stop it, right here, right now,” he added.


Further, the move allows FEMA to provide New York with public and individual assistance under the Stafford Act at a 75% federal to 25% state cost share for eligible expenses and activities related to coronavirus efforts.


Cuomo said he asked FEMA to waive the state's matching share.


"If there is any situate where FEMA should waive the 25%, this is the situation," he said.


Local county funding


Earlier this week, Schumer said that the Senate’s emergency legislative package to combat the coronavirus will deliver billions of dollars to New York, and millions to the counties. Schumer successfully pushed to include a cost-sharing provision in the legislation so New York’s counties, which pay part of Medicaid’s costs, benefit from the increase federal Medicaid support. Schumer has championed this provision in prior disaster response legislation, including after 9-11, Hurricane Sandy and the 2008 financial meltdown.


The Schumer-backed emergency measure delivers billions to New York and its counties immediately, while the state, city and local governments works to contain the virus’s spread and cover mounting costs in new ‘hot spots’.


Schumer explained that state-wide dollars related to healthcare funds known as “FMAP,’ unemployment benefits, and meals for seniors who might become homebound were included in the final bill, and said all of this will mean billions for New York.


The counties share is $436 million, with $3.87 million for Steuben County, $1.97 million for Allegany County, and $1.84 million for Livingston County.


“Enhanced FMAP funds are so important because they are immediate and flexible. The state – which gets billions and the most of any state in the nation – and counties use the money they save on whatever they want, alleviating pressure from the crisis,” said Senator Schumer. “New York is the national epicenter in the coronavirus fight and this bill will ensure New York and its counties have the tools, the dollars, and the federal resources to go at the virus with full force. I am proud to deliver this support that will unlock billions for New York state and send money directly to counties on the front lines of this battle as we all work together to contain the virus’s spread and cover mounting costs.”


How New York is finding masks, ventilators to fight COVID-19


Authorities identified the 2 million new masks for purchase from various sources and are in the process of obtaining them, Cuomo said Saturday.


The plan is to send 1 million of the masks to New York City and 500,000 to Long Island, he added, citing how they are among the hardest hit communities in the country.


New York City has 6,200 confirmed cases, and Long Island has 1,200.


"This won’t get us through the crisis but it will make a significant contribution to New York City’s mask issue," he said.


Meanwhile, Westchester County has 1,385 confirmed cases, which marked a leveling out from its early place as the epicenter of New York's coronavirus outbreak.


Cuomo cited the use of a containment area and other public-health efforts in New Rochelle as the reason for the turnaround.


"Our hot spot of Westchester is now slowing and that is very good news," he said.


The masks were found after Cuomo on Friday asked companies to sell to the state any "personal protective equipment" such as gloves, masks and gowns they are not using.


Some apparel companies are also converting manufacturingng lines to begin producing masks to aid in the COVID-19 fight, Cuomo said Saturday.


The 6,000 ventilators are being purchased from companies around the globe, Cuomo said, adding health officials are working on ways to retrofit the devices to use them on several patients at a time.


New York was expecting to need 24,000 additional ventilators to handle the COVID-19 patient surge, meaning it is still trying to find another 18,000 of the devices.