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NY delays presidential primary; Trump eyes a quarantine

AP
Updated: March 28, 2020 09:47 PM
Created: March 28, 2020 02:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — As coronavirus cases kept rising in the national epicenter of New York, President Donald Trump said Saturday he is considering some type of an enforceable quarantine to keep people from leaving the state and parts of neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday he wasn't sure what the president meant. Meanwhile, Cuomo postponed New York's presidential primary from April to June, and nurses made anguished pleas for more protective equipment and rebuffed officials' claims that supplies are adequate. With New York cases expected to mushroom toward a mid-to-late-April peak, Cuomo took a manual-pump air mask in hand to show what might lie in store if needed ventilators don't arrive.

Here are the latest coronavirus developments in New York:

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A TRI-STATE QUARANTINE?

Trump told reporters at the White House he was weighing the idea of a quarantine to prevent people in New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut from traveling for “short period of time, if we do it at all."

All 50 U.S. states have reported some cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, but New York has the most, with over 52,000 positive tests for the illness and more than 700 deaths.

The federal government has the power to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among states, but it's not clear whether that means Trump can order people not to leave their states.

Trump, a Republican, said he had spoken with Cuomo, but the Democratic governor said there had been on talk of a quarantine when the two spoke Saturday morning.

“I don’t even know what that means, I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable, and from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing," said Cuomo said at a news conference. "I don’t like the sound of it.”

PRIMARY DELAYED

Cuomo said he was delaying the state's presidential primary from April 28 to June 23, when the state plans to hold legislative congressional and local party primaries.

“I don’t think it’s wise to be bringing people to one location to vote," he said.

New York joins over a dozen states that have delayed some elections. A smaller group including Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Indiana and Kentucky have also postponed their presidential primaries.

The governor's decision came as election commissioners across New York warned they were "risking" their health and safety to meet impending deadlines for testing machines and preparing ballots ahead of the April 28 date.

Local election boards have said they were facing shortages of polling places and inspectors and had called on legislative leaders and Cuomo to allow for increased use of absentee balloting for quarantined individuals and greater flexibility for elections officials to run June elections.

NURSES APPEAL FOR MASKS

At a news conference outside city-run Jacobi Hospital, nurses called for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 29,000 people and killed over 500 in the city.

At least one health care worker, Mount Sinai West assistant nursing manager Kious Kelly, 36, has died of the virus. Others also have fallen ill around the metropolitan region.

Jacobi nurses said managers at the Bronx hospital have been rationing protective equipment, making them unable to change out the high-end particle-filtering masks known as N95s as often as they should.

“We have a number of workers -- two in this hospital, two nurses -- fighting for their lives in the ICUs right now,” pediatric nurse Sean Petty said, blaming a scarcity of equipment.

City officials have insisted there’s enough protective equipment for roughly the next week, though they’re worried for the weeks after.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city delivered 200,000 N95 masks to hospitals Friday, with 800,000 more to come Saturday, along with loads of less-protective surgical masks and other gear. The United Nations announced Saturday it was donating 250,000 face masks to the city.

The city hospital system’s president, Dr. Mitchell Katz, said at a news conference Friday that staffers working exclusively with coronavirus patients could conserve supplies of N95 masks by wearing one throughout their shifts, with surgical masks over it that can be changed more frequently. Some others have chosen to wear helmets with reusable air filters -- somewhat like “a Darth Vader mask,” he said.

In some patient-care settings, a surgical mask will suffice, he said, “but if you feel more comfortable wearing an N95 mask, we're good with that.”

Petty said policies on protective equipment were being driven by shortages, not science, and he slammed officials as subjecting medical workers to avoidable risks.

“We will not let any health official or government official say that we have enough” protective equipment, he said, “until every health care worker has an N95 for every time they interact with a COVID-19 patient.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

MANUAL AIR MASKS

As the state continues scrambling to try to amass 30,000 ventilators ahead of a projected mid-to-late-April peak in coronavirus cases, Cuomo bluntly illustrated the alternative: masks with manually operated air bags.

He said the state has bought 3,000 of them, has ordered 4,000 more and is considering training National Guard personnel to operate them. It entails pumping the bulb-like bag by hand -- 24 hours a day for every patient in need.

“If we have to turn to this device on any large-scale basis, that is not an acceptable situation,” Cuomo said, “so we go back to finding the ventilators.”

The federal government has sent over 4,000 ventilators to the state and New York City this week.


(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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