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New York is experimenting with splitting one ventilator between two patients

Cuomo: Urgent need for hospital beds, ventilators
Cuomo: Urgent need for hospital beds, ventila... 05:33

Health officials in New York are experimenting with the possibility of having two patients share one ventilator as the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread shortages of the machine, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a press briefing Tuesday morning. 

Cuomo emphasized the severity of the shortage of hospital equipment, including beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. He said ventilators are difficult to produce and extremely expensive.

"This is a critical and desperate need for ventilators. We are going so far as to try an experimental procedure where we spit the ventilator," Cuomo said. "We use one ventilator for two patients. It's difficult to perform, it's experimental, but at this point, we have no alternatives." 

New York state has obtained about 7,000 ventilators but needs at least 30,000 more, Cuomo said. A lack of ventilators, which are critical for helping COVID-19 patients breathe, could force doctors to make "terrible triage decisions about who lives and who dies," said CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula. 

While FEMA is sending the state 400 ventilators, Cuomo said that the small amount misses the magnitude of the problem. 

"Four-hundred ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators," he said. "You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000?"

Cuomo called on the federal government to send thousands of ventilators within 14 days to deal with the shortage. He urged President Trump to implement the Defense Production Act, which would force manufacturers to produce the machines. 

Mr. Trump, however, has resisted using the act, saying last week that "the concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept."

Cuomo also said another option would be for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to use the federal stockpile of 20,000 ventilators. He said he would be personally willing to handle the transportation of the machines to parts of the country in need once New York is past the apex of the virus. 

In addition to ventilators, Cuomo said protective equipment will be distributed across the state. The governor said the equipment has become impossible to find.

As of Tuesday, more than 25,600 people have tested positive for the virus in New York and 210 have died. There are nearly 15,000 cases in New York City alone, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said 3,234 people are currently hospitalized for the virus, 23% of which are ICU patients.  

"Where we are today, you will be in 3 weeks or 4 weeks or 5 weeks or 6 weeks," Cuomo said in reference to the virus spreading to other states. "We are your future. And what we do here, will chart the course for what we do in your city and in your community." 

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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