NEW YORK — The New York governor said Saturday the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, highlighting the extreme measures leaders are taking in what has become a cutthroat scramble to independently secure enough lifesaving devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a sign of the disorganized response to the global crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the shipment of the breathing machines that was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday, while acknowledging that the U.S. government’s stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short.
“We’re all in the same battle here,” Cuomo said, noting that the state of Oregon also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”
The rush to secure supplies has prompted intense squabbling between the states and federal government at a moment the nation is facing one of its gravest emergencies. Leaders like Cuomo have been forced to go outside normal channels and work with authoritarian governments and private companies.
Trump said states are making inflated requests for medical supplies when the need isn’t there and suggested he had a hand in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York. Trump also said he’d like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Cuomo for providing medical supplies and helping quickly to add hospital capacity. Cuomo acknowledged he asked the White House and others for help negotiating the ventilators.
“We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has ever been given in a long time," Trump told reporters in Washington.
While the state of Massachusetts used the New England Patriots' team plane to pick up over a million masks from China, Russia has also sent medical equipment to the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump has said he'd prevent the export of N95 protective masks to Canada and other nations, prompting a rebuke from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said his country won’t bring retaliatory measures as it continues to ship gloves and testing kits to the U.S.
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,400; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in New York state, including more than 1,900 in New York City. In addition to getting ventilators from China and Oregon, Cuomo ordered private hospitals in the state to redistribute breathing machines to those most in need.
“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said, noting that while it’s been roughly 30 days since the state’s first case, “it feels like an entire lifetime.”
Trump said the federal government is setting up a 2,500-bed field hospital at New York's Javits Convention Center that will be staffed by the military. He said similar hospital projects are being built in Louisiana and Dallas.
“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn't done," Trump said. He later added that the federal government is “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. In China, air raid sirens sounded across the country Saturday and flags flew at half staff in tribute to victims of the coronavirus pandemic, including the health care “martyrs” who have died fighting to save others.
With the highest number of infections in Europe and their hospitals overwhelmed, Spain and Italy struggled to protect medical staff on the front lines, while 17 medics in Egypt's main cancer hospital 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.
Carlo Palermo, head of Italy’s hospital doctors’ union, fought tears as he told reporters in Rome of the physical risks and psychological trauma the outbreak is causing, noting reports that two nurses had killed themselves.
“It’s a indescribable condition of stress. Unbearable,” he said.
Overall, new infections continued to slow their once-exponential pace in Italy, with 4,805 new cases registered Saturday that brought the country's official count to 124,632. The death toll continued to mount, with 681 new victims bringing the world’s highest toll to 15,362.
In France, 7,560 people have died of coronavirus-related issues including at least 2,028 in nursing homes, health director Jerome Salomon said. More than 440 of the overall deaths happened in the last 24 hours.
In the U.S., the outbreak is deepening in other areas beyond New York. More than 400 people have died in Louisiana, and state authorities have been sprinting to find ventilators similar to New York. Michigan has more than 14,000 infections and 500 deaths, with Detroit being the state's epicenter.
With the arrival of the weekend and spring weather, many Americans struggled to adhere to social distancing and stay-at-home orders that cover most of the country. The sheriff in San Diego issued about two dozen citations to people, saying violators were breaking the rules by having picnics near the beach.
And officials from the major sports leagues had a phone call with Trump about resuming competition. Asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time in September with fans in the stands, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”
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. The other five were in the southern province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong. There were three new deaths for an official total of 3,329.
Spain’s Health Ministry reported 18,324 infected health workers as of Saturday, representing 15% of the total number of infections in the country.
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 greatly under-count the true number of victims because of lack of testing, mild cases that were missed and governments that are underplaying the crisis.
At the same time, more than 233,000 people have recovered from the virus, which causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Forliti reported from St. Paul, Minnesota. Rising reported from Berlin. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.