Coronavirus: Decision comes after state’s deadliest day

ALBANY — New York had its most deadly 24 hours due to the coronavirus, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say Friday he will call in the National Guard to take unused ventilators and supplies and redistribute them to the places of greatest need.


New York had a shocking 562 deaths since Thursday morning — an average of 23 deaths an hour — as the total number of deaths in the state due to COVID-19 hit 2,935, Cuomo announced Friday.


"You had more death, you had more people coming into hospitals than any other night," he said somberly.


In response, Cuomo said he will sign an executive order that will allow the National Guard to go to hospitals and health-care facilities to take unused ventilators and other medical supplies so they can be used in parts of the state in desperate need of more resources.


"I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators," Cuomo said.


He said the drastic step is needed, despite hesitancy from some health-care administrators, because the state is running out of ventilators mainly in New York City — where more than half of the cases are located.


New York has by far the most cases and deaths in the nation.


Coronavirus cases rise across New York


The number of positive cases in New York reached nearly 103,000 on Friday, with 57,000 of them in the city and 12,351 in Westchester County; 4,300 in Rockland County; 809 in Dutchess County and 464 in Monroe County.


Cuomo said the state will either bring the ventilators back when they are finished being used or the state will pay the facilities for new ones.


The goal is not to leave other facilities without any equipment, just no excess equipment. He said he hopes there are several hundred ventilators available.


"Several hundred could save several hundred lives," Cuomo said


The announcement comes after Cuomo warned Thursday that the state could run out of ventilators within six days and as projections have estimated New York might have 16,000 deaths by the time the virus runs its course.


On Friday, the state 14,810 people hospitalized and 8,886 patients who had been discharged.


Debate over Cuomo's move to take ventilators from parts of NY


Upstate Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik and Tom Reed and a group of Republican state lawmakers expressed concerns over shifting ventilators from upstate to downstate.


"Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge," they said in a statement.


"We stand together opposing the governor's very dangerous and reckless action. He is leaving our communities in a terrible position which will cost lives."


But Kenneth Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said the administrators would comply, saying the equipment could be shifted back if the virus spreads more acutely to other parts of the state.


"The governor is pursuing lifesaving measures in real time during an unprecedented public health emergency," Raske said in a statement.


"He would doubtless make the same decision if another part of the state was disproportionately overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases."


Raske said the "door swings both ways," saying that any institution that receives a ventilator would certainty reciprocate when the virus peaks elsewhere.


State Senator George Borrello (R-57th District) said he was "shocked" to hear the executive order and criticized the decision.


"We are seeing on a daily basis, the rapid spread of this unpredictable virus in cities and communities across upstate," Borrello said in a statement. "Next door in Erie County, which borders the northernmost portion of the 57th District, cases are multiplying at lightning speed. Surrounding counties are also seeing sharp upticks in cases. Taking lifesaving ventilators and PPE from any of our hospitals creates the very real danger that residents and health care workers in the region could see their health, and even their lives, threatened by the lack of necessary equipment.


"While we understand the extreme circumstances that hospitals in New York City and downstate are experiencing, the health and safety of our upstate residents is just as critical. I have sent a letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to reverse this reckless decision."