Coronavirus in NY: Gov. Cuomo calls on feds to deploy Army Corps of Engineers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday called on the federal government to “step up to the plate” in the battle against the coronavirus and send the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit state buildings in an effort to increase the number of hospital beds.

The governor said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he sent President Trump an open letter in The New York Times on Sunday and asked for the “federal government to get out of the testing business and allow the states to take it over.”

“He allowed us to take over the testing and we’ve made great progress on testing,” Cuomo said.

“But that was yesterday. Tomorrow is going to be the wave breaking on the hospitals,” he continued, adding that New York state only has about 50,000 beds available.

“I only have 3,000 intensive care beds and these people are going to need the intensive care unit beds. The only hope we have now at this late date is to retrofit existing facilities,” he said, referring to military bases, college dorms and other sites.

He asked for the feds to send in the Army Corps of Engineers to take on the task because “time is short.”

“This federal government has to get more engaged,” Cuomo said.

He also said the response to the coronavirus pandemic must become more unified on a national level.

“There’s been no country that has handled it and not nationalized it,” he said. “This patchwork of policies doesn’t work. It makes no sense for New York and New Jersey to do something else.”

He added: “I close the bars, they go to New Jersey. Every state cannot come up with its own rules.”

The governor also was asked on CNN why not all school districts in the state have been shut down along with those in the Big Apple, Long Island and Westchester County.

“All throughout the state we have different situations. Some counties have no cases. Our density’s in downstate New York,” he said, adding that he shut down the schools “on the proviso that they have a plan to provide child care for first responders and health-care workers.”

He said: “We don’t want to see our nurses, health-care workers not be able to work because they have to stay home.”

When asked about Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s refusal to disclose the number of ventilators available in the US due to “national security,” Cuomo said: “The national security imperative is people would get very nervous if they knew how few they had.”

“We’ve been behind this all along. The federal government has to step up – nationwide rules, school closings, bars, whatever, and then understand that we have an impending catastrophe when this wave crashes on the hospital system and we don’t have the capacity.”

In his op-ed in the Times, Cuomo wrote that “every country affected by this crisis has handled it on a national basis. The United States has not.

“State and local governments alone simply do not have the capacity or resources to do what is necessary, and we don’t want a patchwork quilt of policies,” he continued. “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.”

Cuomo urged the president to “stop the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from overregulating the testing process, and authorize states to certify a wider array of testing labs and methods.”

He said the Trump administration’s agreement to allow the New York state Health Department to authorize local labs to perform coronavirus tests was a “good first step.”

“Your administration also approved high-volume automated testing by the Swiss diagnostics maker Roche,” he wrote, but added that “these moves are insufficient.”

“Because of the high demand for testing kits nationwide, many labs with Roche machines will be unable to obtain enough of the company’s testing kits for weeks or even months,” he wrote,

“There are other labs that can do high-volume coronavirus tests that do not use Roche kits. But these machines cannot be used without further F.D.A. approvals, of the sort Roche received on Friday.

“Mr. Trump, don’t let bureaucracy get in the way of fighting this virus. Break the logjam, let states fully take over testing so they can unleash hundreds of labs tomorrow and bring testing to scale,” he said.

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