Public/Global Health

NY governor calls on Trump to use Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital capacity

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling on President Trump to activate the Army Corps of Engineers to increase hospital capacity in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The governor cautioned in a New York Times op-ed that the U.S. has not dealt with the pandemic on a national level like other countries, which are still struggling, and predicted the failure of the hospital system is “all but certain.”

“There is now only one question your team must answer for you: Can we slow the spread of the disease to a rate that our state health care systems can handle? The answer increasingly looks like no. But that does not mean we should not try,” he wrote. 

Cuomo warned that states cannot build hospitals fast enough as the virus spreads, adding that the U.S. has fewer hospitals beds per 1,000 people than China, South Korea and Italy, and noting that some of them are reaching capacity. 

“At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers,” he wrote. “Then we can designate existing hospital beds for the acutely ill.”

The governor cited the president’s declaration of a national emergency as reasoning to allow active-duty Army Corps personnel to help with expanding hospital capacity.

“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds, but it is our best hope,” he continued. 

Cuomo also requested the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stop “overregulating” the testing process to allow states to conduct more tests. He called Trump’s move to authorize local labs a “good first step,” but said it was “insufficient.”

“Mr. Trump, don’t let bureaucracy get in the way of fighting this virus,” he wrote. “Break the logjam, let states fully take over testing so they can unleash hundreds of labs tomorrow and bring testing to scale. It is the only way we will have a chance of keeping up with the rapid spread of this contagion.”

The Democratic governor also criticized the inconsistency in different states closing businesses and schools, calling it “counterproductive”

Cuomo acknowledged his past disagreements with the president, but said they should “work together as Americans.”

“Time is short,” he wrote.

New York has identified 613 cases of the virus in the state, including 269 in New York City, according to the New York State Department of Health. The state announced its first two deaths Saturday. 

Tags Army Corps of Engineers Coronavirus Donald Trump hospital capacity hospitals New York New York City op-ed

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