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US coronavirus deaths surpassed 7,000. States say they’re missing what they need to combat the virus

At least 278,458 people in the United States have become infected and 7,159 have died.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Mark J. Terrill/AP (AP)

NEW YORK CITY – (CNN) -- As the number of deaths from coronavirus in the United States surpassed 7,000, some state leaders said they're still missing vital tools in their battle against the coronavirus.

New York state, which has more than 113,000 cases and has been desperately searching for ventilators, will receive 140 ventilators from Oregon, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday in a news conference.

"This was unsolicited, but the 140 ventilators will make a difference," Cuomo said, adding the gesture was both "kind" and "smart."

"We're all in the same battle here," the governor said. "And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus."

China is donating another 1,000 ventilators, Cuomo said. Those are expected to arrive Saturday.

At least 278,458 people in the United States have become infected and 7,159 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s running case count.

But as case tallies continue to rise, leaders in other states say they don't have enough tests to get a clear picture of infections.

"Everything about the tests are very difficult to come by, and there's no federal plan for this, so every state is on their own," Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker said. "As I've said, it's the Wild West out here."

State-by-state coronavirus cases

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the federal government must ramp up its efforts to push for more personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers, saying the state had received some but not all it had requested.

"We're grateful for these supplies. But to be clear, we've gotten just 33% of what we've asked for, and they've told us not to expect more anytime soon," he said.

"This pandemic is a war," he said. "And we need the armor to fight it."

President Donald Trump this week said the US Strategic National Stockpile is nearly depleted.

"Governments at all levels, hospitals, law enforcement and others are competing against each other for a scarce amount of personal protective equipment," Cooper said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said officials in his state have tried to boost hospital bed capacity and buy more personal protective equipment.

"We try to buy (PPE)," he said. "It's really hard. The federal government buys most all of it."

Beshear called on residents to donate equipment they may have, saying there's a great need for gloves.

"We believe this is the next area where there's going to be another big run in the United States," he said in a statement.

White House announces new face cloth guidelines

People are now advised to wear cloth face coverings when in public, the White House announced Friday upon recommendation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," Trump said. "I'm not choosing to do it."

The President's announcement came days after a panel of experts advised the White House on new research that suggests coronavirus could be spread by talking and possibly even just breathing.

Still, experts at the CDC said they felt "pressured" by the White House to draft the recommendations on face coverings, a senior federal health official involved in discussions said.

How to make your own face mask

"The CDC would not have gone this direction if not for the White House," the official told CNN. "We would have tried more to understand about asymptomatic transmission. We would have done more studies if we had more time."

CDC experts were under "intense pressure" to draft the new guidelines quickly, the official said.

Here’s what else happened this week:

• All but eight US states have issued stay-at-home orders. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top health expert, has said he doesn't understand why all states haven't issued such an order by now. Trump has said he will not issue a nationwide order, noting again Friday he will continue to leave that decision to governors.

• The next two weeks will be "very, very rough" for the US, the President also said. White House experts cited a model this week that showed more than 2,000 Americans could die each day by mid-April.

• White House experts earlier this week predicted at least 100,000 Americans could die from the virus -- and that's if residents strictly abide by federal social distancing guidelines, which were extended for another month. Without those measures in place, the death toll could reach as high as 2.2 million, White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx said. New evidence also suggests about a quarter of US coronavirus carriers have no symptoms, according to the CDC.

• Social distancing measures appear to have begun to pay off in some places, officials said. Health officials in Washington state's King County -- the country's first epicenter -- said they were beginning to experience a "positive impact" from fewer people coming into contact with each other.

NY nurse: Patients appear sicker than last week

A New York hospital intensive care unit nurse says the patients she and her colleagues are treating this week appear sicker compared with last week. And it's not just the lungs, Kelley Bradshaw said. Patients' heart and kidneys are being affected as well.

"The pathophysiology of this thing is it starts out with the lungs and then a patient may start to have some respiratory insufficiency, meaning they need some oxygen supplementation and then that might not be enough so they need different modalities, i.e. they need a breathing tube and then after that happens, then sometimes different organ systems start to get affected like the kidneys," she said.

"There's just a lot of unpredictability with these patients and it just feels like the longer someone battles this virus and the more critically ill they become, the harder our job gets," she said.

The ICU has expanded to handle more patients, Bradshaw said, and while health workers still have all the protective equipment they need, they're careful not to exhaust it in case they still have a lot of coronavirus patients three weeks from now.

"They do have to keep it very -- it is very regulated, meaning that we can't just blow through it, because we don't know what's coming next," she said.

State officials in New York have planned to redirect ventilators and medical supplies from institutions that aren't using them to overwhelmed downstate medical facilities under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo is asking upstate hospitals to loan up to 20% of their unused ventilators.

"Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help," Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said in a statement. "We are not upstate or downstate we are one state and we act that way."

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