Coronavirus: US states scramble for equipment as death toll mounts

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo says China is facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, in another example of the extreme measures being taken in what is now a scramble to source lifesaving devices in the coronavirus pandemic.

In a sign of the disorganised response in the US to the global crisis, Mr Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the breathing machines, which were scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday.

Noting the state of Oregon had also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York, Mr Cuomo also acknowledged the US government’s stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short of requirements.

“We’re all in the same battle here,” Mr Cuomo said. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”

Global coronavirus cases and deaths
(PA Graphics)

President Donald Trump told reporters on Saturday states were making inflated requests for medical supplies when the need was not there.

He also suggested he played a role in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York, and said he would like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Mr Cuomo.

“We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has ever been given in a long time,” Mr Trump told reporters in Washington.

While the state of Massachusetts used the New England Patriots NFL team’s plane to transport more than a million masks from China, Russia has also sent medical equipment to the US.

Virus Outbreak New York
A medic at the Elmhurst Hospital Centre in Queens, New York, reacts after stepping outside the emergency room on Saturday. Health workers worldwide have come under intense pressure through the coronavirus outbreak (Mary Altaffer/AP)

More than 3,500 of those deaths have been in New York state, including more than 1,900 in New York City.

In addition to accessing ventilators from China and Oregon, Mr Cuomo ordered private hospitals in the state to redistribute breathing machines to those most in need.

“I want this all to be over,” Mr Cuomo said, noting that while it had been roughly 30 days since the state’s first case, “it feels like an entire lifetime.”

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn’t done,” Mr Trump said, adding the federal government was “a backup … the greatest backup that ever existed for the states.”

As the number of people infected has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients.

With the highest number of infections in Europe and their hospitals overwhelmed, Spain and Italy are struggling to protect medical staff on the front lines, while 17 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital have also tested positive for the virus.

Italy and Spain, with combined deaths of more than 25,000 and nearly a quarter-million infections, have reported a high percentage of infections among health care workers.

Italy Virus Outbreak
Rome’s ancient Colosseum stands almost deserted as Italy’s lockdown continues (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

In France, 7,560 people have died of coronavirus-related issues including at least 2,028 in nursing homes. More than 440 of the overall deaths happened in the 24 hours to Saturday night.

In the US, the outbreak is deepening in areas beyond New York. More than 400 people have died in Louisiana, where state authorities have also been racing to source ventilators. Michigan has more than 14,000 infections and 500 deaths, with Detroit being the state’s epicentre.

In China, where the coronavirus was first detected in December, authorities have cautiously lifted restrictions amid dropping numbers of infections. On Sunday the government reported just 30 new coronavirus cases, including 25 people who had arrived from overseas.

Virus Outbreak Poland
An ambulance passes a cyclist in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday. While Poland has far fewer Covid-19 cases than other European countries such as Italy and Spain, its numbers are on the rise (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

As Spain completes its third week in a state of emergency, there were signs the number of new infections were slowing. But they were still high, with 7,026 new cases reported overnight Saturday and 809 deaths.

Worldwide, confirmed infections rose past 1.1 million and deaths exceeded 63,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say both tallies greatly under-count true numbers because of lack of testing, mild cases that were missed, and governments underplaying the crisis.

More than 233,000 people have recovered from the virus.

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