NY scolds ‘selfish’ residents, California beds running out

A body is unloaded from a refrigerated truck at Brooklyn Hospital Center on Tuesday. (AP pic)

NEW YORK: The governor of New York on Wednesday clamped down harder on public gatherings in the face of the coronavirus, calling residents “selfish” for refusing to stay home as California’s governor warned his state may run out of intensive care beds and ventilators next month.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told New York City police to more aggressively enforce rules for social distancing as deaths in the state shot up to nearly 2,000.

“Young people must get this message, and they still have not gotten the message, you still see too many situations with too much density by young people,” said Cuomo in imposing new rules to close playgrounds, swing sets, basketball courts and similar spaces.

The Democratic governor sounded vexed by reports of crowds gathering at a Manhattan pier to watch the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship, the Comfort.

“How reckless and irresponsible and selfish for people not to do it on their own,” he said.

More than 4,700 people have died across the United States from Covid-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally, with more than 212,000 cases reported.

White House medical experts have forecast that even if Americans follow unprecedented stay-at-home orders, some 100,000 to 240,000 people could die from the respiratory disease.

Since 2010, the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918-1919 flu pandemic killed 675,000 in the United States, according to the CDC.

Hotels as hospitals

The USNS Mercy is seen docked off Los Angeles on Sunday. (AP pic)

Already 38 states and the District of Columbia have told residents to avoid leaving the house unless necessary, orders that now apply to roughly 260 million people, or 80% of the US population.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference the city was contracting with hotels as part of a massive effort to add 65,000 additional hospital beds by the end of the month.

De Blasio said the city has already arranged to add 10,000 beds at 20 hotels, which have lost most of their guests as travel has stopped.

“This is going to be an epic process during the month of April to build out all that capacity,” de Blasio said at a briefing.

“But this goal can be reached.”

While New York remains the centre of the pandemic, states across the country experienced a surge of cases, including California, Michigan, Florida and New Jersey.

Even with signs that strict stay-at-home rules are slowing the outbreak in California and the Comfort’s sister ship, the USNS Mercy, is parked off Los Angeles, Governor Gavin Newsom warned the state would run out of intensive care hospital beds equipped with ventilators within six weeks.

“We are in a completely different place than the state of New York and I hope we will continue to be but we won’t unless people continue to practice physical distancing and do their part,” Newsom said at a news conference in Sacramento.

Youngest victim

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced what he called a tragic milestone as the virus claimed its youngest known US victim to date, a six-week-old baby.

“It just is a reminder that nobody is safe from this virus,” Lamont said at a field house at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, where more than 200 hospital beds have been set up.

With rent and mortgage payments due on Wednesday, the first day of the month, Americans unable to work struggled to make ends meet.

Alfa Cristina Morales, 21, lost her job cooking at an Oakland, California, coffee shop, along with her health insurance, three weeks ago.

Morales said she was using money saved for a US citizenship application to pay bills and she applied for unemployment benefits to support herself and her 2-year-old son.

“We’re worried that it won’t be enough,” she said.

Cruise ships

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told Fox News Channel that Broward County was working on a plan to allow two cruise ships with coronavirus outbreaks carrying a total of 2,500 people to dock in Fort Lauderdale, despite his misgivings about potentially contagious foreign nationals.

“We were concerned about a deluge into the hospitals, but I think it turns out that there will probably be some who need to go, but it’s very manageable and the local hospital system thinks that they can handle it,” DeSantis told Fox.

At Fort Lauderdale, Floridians aboard the ships would be taken home and flights arranged for foreigners, he said.

“They will not be going to the airport. There will not be an opportunity to spread coronavirus to the people of Florida,” DeSantis said.

One of the two Dutch cruise ships is Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam. Nearly two-thirds of its passengers, those who passed a medical screening, were moved to the line’s sister ship, the Rotterdam.

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