WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Saturday he is deploying 1,000 medical personnel to New York City to help battle the coronavirus.
Personnel to be deployed will include doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists and others, Trump announced at a White House news briefing on Saturday.
“We’ve been doing it, but now we’re doing it on a larger basis,” Trump said.
Trump did not say from which branches of the services the officials will be deployed. But he said they will be sent Sunday and Monday to New York, “where they’re needed most.”
Trump said Defense Secretary Mark Esper would provide more details about the deployments on Sunday.
Trump’s decision to deploy additional military personnel comes as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus marched to another record-setting pace early Saturday, with nearly 1,200 deaths in 24 hours as federal emergency workers tried to answer desperate pleas for respirators from dozens of states.
The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has now topped 297,600, and 8,000 deaths have been reported. Worldwide, more than 1.7 million cases have been confirmed and 63,000 deaths reported.
The U.S. is running about 12 days behind Spain and Italy in terms of how the disease is progressing, said Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. Both Spain and Italy are seeing a drop in the number of cases, she said.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people to start wearing cloth face masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC had previously urged people not to wear masks. Trump, who announced the new guidelines, stressed that they are strictly voluntary and that he probably would not wear a mask.
Trump also stressed that CDC is not calling for Americans to wear medical-grade masks. Medical protective gear must be preserved for health care officials who are on the front lines treating coronavirus patients, he said.
Meanwhile, New York said it is getting 1,000 life-saving ventilators from China to aid its battle against the virus. The ventilators were expected to arrive Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a news conference on Saturday. The Chinese government facilitated the effort connected to Alibaba, the massive online retailer in China, Cuomo said.
Another 500 of the breathing machines will be moved from upstate New York to downstate hospitals being hit hardest by the disease, Cuomo said.
New York has been at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. Cuomo has said he needs 30,000 ventilators “at a minimum” to meet the peak of the outbreak in his state in a couple of weeks. Trump has said he doesn’t believe the state needs that many.