Coronavirus: New York approves ventilator 'splitting' to treat COVID-19 patients

NEW YORK (KABC) -- New York will allow hospitals to treat two novel coronavirus patients with a single ventilator in response to the surge of cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

More than 100 people have died from COVID-19 in New York in the last 24 hours, bringing their total to 385, about 30% of all U.S. deaths. There is fear that a shortage of equipment will cost lives.

"We are going so far as to try an experimental procedure where we split 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."

The problem has two causes - too many people need the machines and once they're on them, they can stay on them for weeks. A normal patient will spend 3 to 4 days on a ventilator, but a patient with COVID-19 will spend an average of 11 to 21 days on a single machine.

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Los Angeles-based company Royal Flex Circuits is now working to cut into that shortage. The factory in Santa Fe Springs is working around the clock.

"We make circuit boards that go into ventilators, these are very critical parts," said Milan Shah, owner of Royal Flex Circuits.

"It's just amazing to see how rank-and-file, how everybody is rising to the call," added Shah.

Cuomo said Thursday the ventilators are needed in 14 days.

"Only the federal government has that power," he said.

On Thursday night, President Donald Trump called into Sean Hannity's Fox News show. He dismissed desperate calls from governors, including New York's Cuomo, who have pleaded for additional ventilators to help treat patients with COVID-19.

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"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump said, referencing New York's request of the federal government.

"I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country: you know, the farm belt, certain parts of the Midwest, other places," Trump said in the interview with Hannity. "I think we can open up sections, quadrants, and then just keep them going until the whole country is opened up."

Trump says that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to begin to ease nationwide guidelines meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The president has been trying for days to determine how to contain the economic fallout of the guidelines issued by his administration as well as local leaders to slow the tide of infections.

"Every day that we stay out it gets harder to bring it back very quickly," Trump said during a Thursday press conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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