New Yorkers hunker down as city braces for critical phase

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers hunkered down Sunday as the city entered a critical phase in the coronavirus crisis — a period authorities warned would bring soaring death tolls and even more challenges for an overburdened health care system.

At a press conference on Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city's current supply of ventilators is only sufficient for the next 48-72 hours and that while 2,865 ventilators have been delivered to hospitals across NYC, along with 1,780 BiPAP machines and 135 full-service ventilators are remaining in the city’s stock, the city still needs 1,000 to 1,500 more ventilators through Sunday, April 12 to ensure adequate front-line supply.

He also thanked Oregon Governor Kate Brown for sending 140 ventilators to New York City. 

Accordig to De Blasio, he is still seeking 1,450 personnel for NYC Health and Hospitals, including 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 doctors. On Sunday, the city is received 291 personnel, including 174 nurses, 104 doctors and 103 respiratory therapists.

He also defended himself from criticism of his alleged walk without a mask in Prospect Park, saying he was maintaining social distance and using a scarf as a face mask. 

Other New Yorkers venturing outdoors for groceries or exercise largely heeded the city's new guidance to wear face coverings such as scarves or bandannas — a sight far less common a week ago.

Signs of quarantine were becoming ubiquitous as many New Yorkers faced their fourth week of isolation. In Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighborhood, even a Little Free Library had been emptied to avoid spreading germs, the books replaced by a handwritten note.

The city canceled all of spring break for its public schools and, in a controversial reversal, called for classes to be held on the start of Passover and Good Friday. School officials announced the decision Friday, saying it was important to keep remote learning uninterrupted.

The announcement roiled the city's teachers union.

“No matter how angry and frustrated we are right now, we must focus on the most important thing, which is to get through the crisis,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a letter to his members. “I am sadly sure that there will be many more tough challenges in the days and weeks to come.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated his call for a federal enlistment of health care workers, citing an anticipated “huge growth” in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.

He told CNN Saturday night the city is going to need 45,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists to get through the crisis.

"It's going to be very tight going into next week," the mayor said, adding the city still needs more ventilators.

New York remains the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. As of Sunday afternoon, there were 122,031 positive coronavirus cases in the state and the death toll had climbed to 4,159, however the increase represented the first drop in deaths since the crisis began.

As of Sunday evening, New York City was reporting 64,955 positive coronavirus cases. 14,205 people have been hospitalized, ad 2,472 people have died. Those numbers are expected to grow exponentially over the next two weeks.

“We have to add 60,000 more beds in the course of the next month or so because there’s going to be explosion of cases and then people are going to need treatment for weeks and weeks,” de Blasio said. “Each person will need a lot of treatment and that’s going to require a huge amount of medical personnel.”


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