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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that his state is considering bucking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE) in crisis situations that he said is worrying some health care professionals.
The comments during a Saturday press conference came after the governor went out of his way Friday to emphasize his state’s need for tens of thousands of ventilators after President Trump questioned the number that New York would need to deal with its coronavirus patients.
Cuomo again spoke about New York’s need for about 30,000 ventilators in a coronavirus worst-case-scenario Saturday, and he responded to reports that President Trump is thinking about an “enforceable quarantine” on the New York tri-state area.
“I don’t even know what that means,” Cuomo said, seemingly caught off guard by reporters’ questions on the issue. “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. But I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it, not even understanding what it is I don’t like the sound of it.”
On the CDC PPE guidelines, Cuomo said his state would make its own decisions.
“There is a concern among health care professionals because the CDC guidelines suggest a different protocol for PPE and masks depending on the condition,” Cuomo said. “And apparently there is a crisis set of guidelines that the CDC puts out for … how often you change your gown, how often you change your mask, etc. in a crisis. And the CDC has put those crisis guidelines in place and many health care professionals are concerned that those guidelines do not adequately protect the nurses and the doctors and the health care staff that are working on this issue.”
Cuomo continued: “[Commissioner of Health] Dr. [Howard] Zucker is looking at that. If we believe the CDC guidelines do not protect health care professionals, we will put our own guidelines in place.”
Cuomo did not make clear exactly what guidelines he was referring to, but earlier this month the CDC released guidelines on how health care providers should use face masks, which are just one piece of PPE, during “conventional,” “contingency” and “crisis” capacities in hospitals.
The CDC guidelines define their “crisis capacity” strategies as “strategies that are not commensurate with U.S. standards of care. These measures, or a combination of these measures, may need to be considered during periods of known facemask shortages.”
These crisis guidelines would involve re-use of facemasks, prioritization in who can wear them and, if there are no masks available, the use of patient isolation in rooms with air filters and homemade masks for doctors and nurses. Suggestions for potential homemade masks include bandanas and scarfs.
Also in his remarks, Cuomo said New York would be moving its presidential primary from April 28 to June 23, updated reporters on his state’s current health situation and re-upped his calls for people to take social distancing seriously.
“We’re supposed to have a presidential primary election that’s coming up on April 28. I don’t think it’s wise to be bringing a lot of people to one location to vote. A lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen, whatever you call the new device on the ballots,” Cuomo said.
He continued: “So we are going to delay that and link it to an election that was previously scheduled on June 23. The June 23 date is for state legislative races and congressional races. We’ll move the presidential election to that date.”
Cuomo also said New York would begin setting up hospitals that are exclusively for coronavirus patients.
“We’re going to go to COVID-only hospitals… so that staff that is there is basically working on one type of issue,” Cuomo said. “The Health Commissioner has given us good advice, it’s smarter to keep the COVID patients separate … we’re going to isolate 600 beds for just this treatment.”
Cuomo said New York had 52,000 cases Saturday afternoon. New York City had 26,697 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Saturday morning, which was 58 percent of all coronavirus cases in the state.
In total, the United States has 104,837 total coronavirus cases as of Saturday morning.
Fox News’ Stephen Scarola contributed to this report.