Projected Demand for Ventilators Surges — Governor Cuomo Considers Splitting Method

Governor Cuomo held a press conference today, updating the public on both the data gathered and plans established in relation to COVID-19.

“Current status, we still have the trajectory going up, we have not turned the trajectory, nor have we hit the apex,” Governor Cuomo stated during a press conference today, adding, “we’re still on the way up the mountain.”

Additionally, Cuomo said, “follow the data” and stated of the referenced projection models, “they’re not necessarily definitive, but it’s the only device we have to plan.”

According to the Governor, early projection models underestimated the infection rate, proclaiming, “The actual hospitalizations have moved at a higher rate than all of the projected models.” 

He added, “That was obviously concerning because that higher infection rate means faster higher capacity on the hospitals, and that’s the critical point for us, the number of people going to hospitals.”

The Governor broke down the numbers-

Beds:

Throughout the New York State healthcare system there are generally 53,000 beds.  This left an 87,000 deficit in the beds required.  In combating this, New York State has taken several actions:

  1. Hospitals told to increase bed count by 50% at minimum, with a goal of a 100% increase if possible.  He believes this will yield a total of 32,000 additional beds for a total of 85,000 beds.
  2. FEMA along with healthcare centers developed at Stony Brook, Javits Center, Westchester Convention Center and Stony Brook Campus will add another 4,000 beds for a total of 89,000 beds.
  3. The Navy Ship Comfort will provide 1,000 beds for a total of 90,000 beds.
  4. Varying college dormitories selected in downstate New York can accommodate another 29,000 beds.  This makes for a total of 119,000 beds. 

With current estimates, this would leave us roughly 21,000 short of the 140,000 beds required to manage this outbreaks predicted apex.  To make up for this, the Governor said, “We’re looking at hotels, former nursing homes and other facilities to make up the differential.”

Protective Equipment:

The Governor stated, “Right now, we have enough protective equipment.  Gloves, masks, gowns for all the hospitals statewide that are dealing with it.  I put a shipment down to New York City yesterday.”  He added, “Today, no hospital, no nurse, no doctor can say legitimately I don’t have protective equipment.”

This statement by the Governor faces some contradiction in Western New York, specifically in Niagara and Orleans Counties.  For example, Becky Wydysh, Niagara County Legislature Chairman; Dan Stapleton, Director of Public Health in Niagara County and Mark Cye, CEO at Medina Memorial Hospital have – just this week – all publicly voiced a need for more supplies in one way or another. 

Ventilators:

“Ventilators, ventilators, ventilators,” Cuomo exclaimed, adding, “We need 30,000 ventilators.  We have in the existing hospital system 4,000 ventilators.”

In order to satisfy this vital need the Governor has purchased 7,000 ventilators and the Federal Government has sent in 4,000 ventilators.  This leaves a large deficit of 15,000 ventilators still needed according to current projection models.  Governor Cuomo unveiled one option being considered,

“We’re exploring splitting, where one ventilator can do two patients.  Italy has had to do this because they were forced to do it.  I want to see if we can study it and do it a little smarter and have a little more time experimenting with it but were looking at splitting the ventilator.”  He added, “We’re still working with the Federal Government to try and find more ventilators, but that is our greatest single challenge.” 

Crowd density measures show signs of progress:

The bit of good news is that social distancing is showing signs of slowing the spread of COVID-19, buying time for the healthcare system to prepare and manage this crisis.

The evidence of this, a downward trend in the doubling of infection rates from Sunday through Tuesday-

Sunday: hospitilizations doubling every 2 days

Monday: hospitalizations doubling every 3.4 days

Tuesday: hospitalizations doubling every 5.7 days