ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday issued an executive order that will allow the state to increase hospital capacity to prepare the health-care system to handle the “potential influx” of patients suffering from the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The state will organize the National Guard and work with building unions and private developers to find existing facilities — such as dormitories and former nursing homes — that can “most easily” be converted to medical facilities, with the goal of creating an additional 9,000 beds.
Cuomo also asked local governments, especially those in the most impacted areas, to help identify available facilities for this purpose. The New York State Department of Health is also suspending regulations to allow existing hospitals to increase space and capacity.
The governor has asked Ken Raske, president of the New York City–based Greater New York Hospital Association, and Michael Dowling, president of Long Island–based Northwell Health, to lead a council to develop hospital surge capacity.
“Our main priority right now is reducing the rate of spread of this virus so it can be managed by our health-care system,” Cuomo said. “We have never fought a virus like this with this potential consequence, and I am taking executive action to reconfigure and increase capacity at hospitals across the state to ensure our health-care facilities can handle a potentially massive surge of patients. We are fighting a war against this virus and the state will continue taking every step necessary to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of this virus.”
Cuomo also directed nonessential state employees across New York to work from home starting Tuesday. He also directed local governments to reduce their overall workforce 50 percent and allow nonessential employees to work from home.
The governor further said New York will waive all fees for state, local, and county parks.
Additionally, Cuomo authorized the state to open a drive-through mobile testing facility on Staten Island — the first drive-through facility in New York City — and one in Rockland County. It follows the March 13 opening of the New Rochelle mobile testing center
Drive-through mobile testing facilities help keep people who are sick or at risk of having contracted coronavirus out of healthcare facilities where they could infect other people. These facilities are a “critical” part of Cuomo’s program to test thousands of people per day for COVID-19 by this week, his office said.
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