‘Please come help us’: New York begs for medical workers

By AP

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The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrives in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning.

(AP) — New York’s governor urgently appealed for medical volunteers Monday amid a “staggering” number of coronavirus deaths, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other U.S. communities could soon face.

“Please come help us in New York now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day to a total of over 1,200, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

“Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.

He returned to his Long Island home, where he volunteered to be a nurse again. While waiting to be reinstated, Kops has been helping at an assisted-living home near his house in Shirley, N.Y.

The spike in deaths in New York was another sign of the long fight ahead against the global pandemic, which was filling Spain’s intensive care beds and shutting millions of Americans inside even as the crisis in China, where the outbreak began in December, kept easing.

More than 235 million people — about two of every three Americans — live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.

In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as coronavirus hospitalizations doubled over the last four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days,” President Donald Trump told reporters. “The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

In Europe, meanwhile, hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each, but the World Health Organization’s emergency chief said cases there were “potentially stabilizing.” At the same time, he warned against letting up on tough containment measures.

“We have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself,” Dr. Michael Ryan said.

More than three-quarters of a million people worldwide have become infected and over 37,000 have died, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. reported more than 160,000 infections and over 3,000 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot. New Orleans, Detroit and other cities also had alarming clusters.

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial,” Cuomo said. “You see this virus move across the state. You see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus.”

Some hospitals are now parking refrigerated trailers outside their doors to collect the dead. At two Brooklyn hospitals, videos posted by bystanders and a medical employee showed workers in masks and gowns loading bodies onto trailers from gurneys on the sidewalk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, also warned that smaller cities are likely about to see cases “take off” the way they have in New York City.

“What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

In other developments around the world:

— Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of patients. The death toll topped 7,300.

— In Japan, officials announced a new date for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — summer of 2021 — as a spike in reported infections fueled suspicions that the government had been understating the extent of the country’s outbreak in recent weeks while it was still hoping to salvage the Summer Games.

— Moscow locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

— Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. In Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.

Italy’s death toll climbed to nearly 11,600. But in a bit of positive news, the numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people recovered.

“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.

Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the tsunami of people gasping for breath.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. More than 160,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

In China, the crisis continued to ease. It reported Monday 31 new COVID-19 cases, among them just one domestic infection, and the city at the center of the outbreak, Wuhan, began reopening for business as authorities lifted more of the controls that locked down tens of millions of people for two months.

“I want to revenge-shop,” one excited customer declared.

Japanese automaker Toyota halted production at its auto plants in Europe, but all of its factories in China resumed work Monday.

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