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Cuomo asks Trump: Use military to expand NY hospital capacity as coronavirus spreads

Cuomo asks Trump: Use military to expand NY hospital capacity as coronavirus spreads

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants President Donald Trump to take extraordinary action to help New York respond to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Cuomo on Sunday asked Trump to mobilize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit state buildings that could be used as temporary hospitals to treat coronavirus patients. 

At a press conference in Albany, Cuomo offered an ominous prediction — that New York's hospitals won't be able to accommodate patients if the coronavirus continues to spread in the state. 

New York hospitals have 53,000 beds, including 3,000 beds in intensive care units. The ICU beds are about 80% occupied, according to Cuomo. 

As of Sunday, 137 of the 729 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been hospitalized. There are 65 coronavirus patients in ICUs, 46 of whom are on ventilators. 

Cuomo highlighted the importance of ICUs when treating people in vulnerable groups — seniors and those with chronic health conditions — who may experience severe symptoms of the respiratory virus. 

"They need the ICU beds," Cuomo said. "They need the ventilators. They need the machines that breathe for them. The overwhelming crush is going to be on the ICU beds." 

But Cuomo said the state doesn't have the resources to build new hospitals or retrofit existing buildings to use as temporary hospitals. That's why he's looking to the federal government for help. 

Cuomo, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Bill Clinton's administration, recalled working with the Army Corps of Engineers on various projects. The agency, which is within the Department of Defense, can build bridges, military facilities and other structures. 

To make his case, Cuomo noted that other countries — notably China and South Korea — built hospitals to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Because the buildings aren't being used at the moment, he said State University of New York dormitories could be transformed into temporary hospitals. 

Trump, Cuomo said, should take his proposal seriously. 

"I know it's a dramatic action," he said. "It may be an unprecedented action. This is a dramatic time and an unprecedented time. And great challenges require great leaders and great solutions. And this is what this is." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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