New York’s governor said Saturday that the state would conduct trials immediately on a malaria drug combined with an antibiotic that has showed promise in a French study in treating COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus.
“There is a theory the drug treatment could be helpful,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters Saturday during a news conference.
He said there were people in serious condition and that the state’s health officials were comfortable trying the treatment on those patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was sending New York 10,000 doses of the drugs, known as hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug) and Zithromax (an antibiotic).
“As soon as we get those doses, we will work with hospitals, doctors and families on using those drugs and seeing where we get,” Cuomo said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also touted the potential of the drug combination to be “one of the biggest game changers" in the fight against the coronavirus.
Cuomo said New York was also working with several drug companies on possible antibody therapies and vaccines.
New York state has the most coronavirus infections in the country, with more than 10,300 cases as of Saturday morning.
The governor said the high numbers were the result of robust testing to detect the virus — more than 45,000 tests have been administered so far.
“We are taking more tests in New York than anyplace else,” he said. “More tests per capita than China or South Korea. We are also taking more tests than any state in the United States of America.”
New York has carried out double the tests of California or Washington state, which have large numbers of cases.
Cuomo’s biggest concern continued to be the potential for cases to overwhelm the state’s health care system. Work was ongoing to increase capacity to meet the growing need.
Some 30,000 ventilators are needed, and his team has identified 6,000 for purchase. With many other states and countries scrambling to buy the critical equipment, Cuomo said the purchase of 6,000 was a “big deal.”
The state is also racing to procure and manufacture enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. Some New York apparel manufacturers are converting their operations to produce masks and gowns.
Cuomo also said plans were underway to increase the state’s 50,000 hospital beds to 75,000. This will include the construction of four 250-bed fully equipped field hospitals. He said he was looking at suitable sites for them, including a large convention center in New York City.
Health officials continue to tell New Yorkers to stay indoors as much as possible, but young people continue to defy the order, thinking they are less vulnerable to the virus. But in New York state, 54% of cases are among 18-49-year-olds.
“So you are not Superman and you are not Superwoman,” Cuomo said. “You can get this virus and you can transfer the virus.”
He urged everyone to observe social distancing, ideally remaining 2 meters apart.
One spot of bright news: Cuomo said a hot spot of cases in the New York City suburb of Westchester appeared to be cooling down after a containment zone was imposed.