NY Governor Cuomo calls for Army Corps of Engineers to join fight against coronarvirus

By RICK MORIARTY | Syracuse (N.Y.) Media Group | Published: March 15, 2020

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Sunday for the Army Corps of Engineers to equip military bases and college dormitories to serve as temporary medical centers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Cuomo said the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to overwhelm the nation’s medical system quickly and urged President Trump to activate the Corps of Engineers to help.

“States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” he said. “At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers. Then we can designate existing hospital beds for the acutely ill.”

Without immediate action, the imminent failure of the nation’s hospital systems “is all but certain,” Cuomo said.

“According to one projection, as many as 214 million people in our country could be infected over the course of the epidemic,” he said. “Of those, as many as 21 million people could require hospitalization. This would crush the nation’s medical system.”

He said New York has just 53,470 hospital beds, only 3,186 of which are intensive-care beds.

“Our country as a whole has fewer than one million staffed hospital beds, fewer proportionately than China, South Korea or Italy,” he said.

He said the use of active-duty Corps of Engineers personnel would not violate federal law because the coronavirus outbreak is a national disaster.

“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds, but it is our best hope,” he said.

He also called for the federal government to authorize states to certify a wider array of testing labs and methods to test for the coronavirus and said the federal government should set a uniform federal standard for when cities and states should shut down commerce and schools or cancel events.

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