Hospital ship arrives in New York as virus death toll rises above 1,200
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Hospital ship arrives in New York as virus death toll rises above 1,200

Cuomo laments ‘staggering’ number of deaths; refrigerated trucks reportedly being prepared to work as mobile morgues, as officials warn health system could collapse

The USNS Comfort medical ship moves up the Hudson River as it arrives in New York on March 30, 2020. (Angela Weiss / AFP)
The USNS Comfort medical ship moves up the Hudson River as it arrives in New York on March 30, 2020. (Angela Weiss / AFP)

NEW YORK — New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday, amid a “staggering” number of deaths from the coronavirus, saying: “Please come help us in New York, now.”

And tens of thousands of retired or sidelined nurses and doctors were already answering the call.

The plea from Gov. Andrew Cuomo came as the death toll in New York State climbed past 1,200 — with most of the victims in the big city — and authorities warned that the crisis pushing New York’s hospitals to the breaking point is just a preview of what other cities across the US could soon face.

Cuomo said the city needs one million additional health care workers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, speaks as he stands beside Rear Adm. John B. Mustin after the arrival of the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship with a 1,000 bed-capacity, March 30, 2020, at Pier 90 in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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

At the same time the governor’s appeal went out, a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, pulled into port with 1,000 beds to help relieve pressure on New York’s hospitals.

Photos circulating on social media showed crowds ignoring social distancing directives and gathering to watch the vessel sail down the Hudson River.

However, an estimated 80,000 former medical professionals have stepped up to volunteer.

“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.

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 that this is no time to let up on tough containment measures.

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

Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and over 35,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

A Samaritan’s Purse crew works on building a 68-bed emergency field hospital, specially equipped with a respiratory unit, in New York’s Central Park across from The Mount Sinai Hospital, March 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The US reported over 140,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot, but New Orleans, Detroit, and other cities are also seeing 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.”

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room, March 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Alex Brandon)

“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.”

The ProPublica outlet reported Monday that New York also has at least 45 refrigerated trucks and tents to be used in case the city’s morgues run out of space.

A man who lives close to Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Heights Medical Center said he saw a “conveyor line of bodies” being put into a vehicle at the side of the medical facility.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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