The number of the COVID-19 patients in the United States has been surging rapidly as the country has more confirmed coronavirus cases than Italy and China, making it the country with the largest outbreak of the illness in the world. New York City has the most cases, raising fears that it may become the U.S.’ Wuhan – the Chinese city where the virus originated.
There are more than 6,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York City, with almost 1,600 of them in intensive care. New York has logged a nation-high of 519 deaths and has more than 44,000 confirmed cases.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that the state wants to build four more temporary hospitals in New York City within weeks before coronavirus cases are projected to peak.
The state is seeking authorization from the Trump administration to add 4,000 beds in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The hospitals will be constructed at a horse track, a city college, an expo center, and a cruise ship terminal.
The requested conversions are part of the state’s broader effort to quickly increase its hospital capacity from 53,000 beds to 140,000 beds. The federal government is already constructing a hospital at a Manhattan convention center and a Navy hospital ship is due to arrive Monday in the global hotspot of the outbreak.
"Were looking far and wide, very creative, aggressive and finding all the space that we can possibly find,” Cuomo said. Schools in the state shall remain closed for another two weeks until April 15, Cuomo added.
Two weeks ago, the governor had ordered schools closed through April 1 as part of the state’s effort to slow the transmission of the disease. New York City schools are closed through April 20, though officials say the city closure could last through the rest of the school year.
"I don’t do this joyfully, but I think that when you look at where we are when you look at the number of cases still increasing, it only makes sense to keep the schools closed,” Cuomo said.
Public servants felled by virus
The coronavirus outbreak is taking its toll on New York City's civil servants. Two people who helped keep New York moving during the crisis, bus operator Oliver Cyrus, 61, and train conductor Peter Petrassi, 49, were killed by the virus Thursday, according to their union. Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano described their demise as "a terrible and incredibly sad loss.”
He called the transit workers "true heroes” for continuing to work during the pandemic and he demanded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority provide transportation workers with protective masks.
The New York Police Department announced its first coronavirus death on Thursday. Dennis Dickson, a department janitor, died from complications of the disease, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. Dickson had been working for the department since 2006 and spent 17 straight days cleaning up police headquarters after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The department, even as it has been tasked with helping police New York's social distancing rules, also continues to see a spike in absences. On Thursday, 3,674 officers called in sick, accounting for about 10% of the force. As of Thursday, 351 NYPD personnel had tested positive for the virus.
The department’s top counterterrorism official, Deputy Commissioner John Miller, was hospitalized Thursday. His test results are awaited while he has been experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.