Update: After deadliest night due to coronavirus, NY to send National Guard to take unused ventilators

Joseph Spector
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will ask the National Guard to help collect unused ventilators across New York during a news conference on Friday, April 3, 2020.

ALBANY - New York had its most deadly night due to the coronavirus, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say Friday he will call in the National Guard to take unused ventilators and supplies to redistribute them to the places of greatest need.

New York had a shocking 562 deaths overnight — an average of 23 deaths an hour — as the total number of deaths in the state due to COVID-19 hit 2,935, Cuomo announced.

"You had more death, you had more people coming into hospitals than any other night," he said somberly.

In response, Cuomo said he will sign an executive order that will allow the National Guard to go to hospitals and health-care facilities to take unused ventilators and other medical supplies so they can be used in parts of the state in desperate need of more resources.

"I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators," Cuomo said.

He said the drastic step is needed, despite hesitancy from some health-care administrators, because the state is running out of ventilators mainly in New York City — where more than half of the cases are located.

Cuomo said the state will either bring the ventilators back when they are finished being used or the state will pay the facilities for new ones.

The goal is not to leave other facilities without any equipment, just no excess equipment. He said he hopes there are several hundred ventilators available.

"Several hundred could save several hundred lives," Cuomo said

The announcement comes after Cuomo warned Thursday that the state could run out of ventilators within six days and as projections have estimated New York might have 16,000 deaths by the time the virus runs its course.

On Friday, the state 14,810 people hospitalized and 8,886 patients who had been discharged.

Upstate Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik and Tom Reed and a group of Republican state lawmakers expressed concerns over shifting ventilators from upstate to downstate.

"Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge," they said in a statement.

"We stand together opposing the governor's very dangerous and reckless action. He is leaving our communities in a terrible position which will cost lives."

But Kenneth Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said the administrators would comply, saying the equipment could be shifted back if the virus spreads more acutely to other parts of the state.

“The governor is pursuing lifesaving measures in real time during an unprecedented public health emergency," Raske said in a statement.

"He would doubtless make the same decision if another part of the state was disproportionately overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases."

Raske said the "door swings both ways," saying that any institution that receives a ventilator would certainty reciprocate when the virus peaks elsewhere.