New York plans more hospitals as virus death toll surges
Andrew Cuomo AFP

New York's coronavirus death toll jumped to 519 on Friday, according to the state's governor, who announced plans to set up four more temporary hospitals to cope with the deluge of patients.

The death count was up from 385 on the previous day, with Andrew Cuomo telling journalists that New York state -- the US hotbed of the pandemic -- has 44,635 confirmed cases.

"We're seeing a significant increase in deaths because the length of time people are on the ventilator is increasing, and the more it increases, the higher the level of deaths will increase," the governor said.

"We expect that to continue to increase. It's bad news, it's tragic news, it's the worst news -- but it is not unexpected news, either."

The United States -- where 40 percent of Americans are under lockdown orders -- emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic this week, with new infections soaring and unemployment claims catapulting to a historic high.

Cuomo said the hospitalization rate in his state -- which was once doubling every two-and-a-half days -- had slowed to doubling approximately every four days.

"There is good news that the rate of the increase is slowing," he said.

Cuomo announced the creation of four temporary hospitals in large facilities in each borough -- including at a horse racing track in Queens -- in the model of an already-constructed space in Manhattan's Javits Center.

A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds and 1,200 medical staff is set to arrive on Monday.

The governor projected the coronavirus spread could peak in New York in 21 days, and said schools would remain closed until at least April 15.

Cuomo praised Army Corps of Engineers personnel tasked with converting spaces including convention centers, dormitories and hotels for medical use, calling the virus "an invisible beast."

"It is an insidious beast. This is not going to be a short deployment," he said.

"I say, my friends, that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus's ass."