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Virus staffing issues suspend flights to NYC, Philadelphia

(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily halting flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.

In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.

The directive also affects Philadelphia International Airport.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier coverage is below.

New York is scouring the globe for desperately needed medical supplies and scouting field hospital locations in New York City and its suburbs as confirmed coronavirus cases soared above 10,000 statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The goal is to quickly boost the state’s hospital capacity from around 50,000 beds to 75,000 beds, Cuomo said at a news briefing. The state has already hospitalized 1,600 people due to the outbreak.

The governor said the state is looking to see if Manhattan’s spacious Javits Center could be suitable for 1,000 requested beds supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a “tent configuration” with equipment and staff.

Possible locations for temporary hospital structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers include Stony Brook University and SUNY College at Old Westbury on Long Island, and the Westchester County Center north of the city. Sites will be reviewed Saturday, he said.

“Everything that can be done is being done,” Cuomo said.

Officials have identified 2 million face masks that can be sent to hot spots, Cuomo said, and apparel companies are pivoting to make masks. One million masks are being sent to New York City hospitals Saturday, and 500,000 to Long Island. And with hospital gowns in short supply, the state is trying to obtain gown material for apparel makers, he said.

The state is also rounding up critically needed ventilators from around the state and purchasing 6,000 to deploy to the most critical areas, Cuomo said. And they are investigating whether multiple patients can be served by a single ventilator.

“We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies,” Cuomo said.

The state also will immediately conduct trials of an experimental treatment with hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been touted by President Donald Trump as a possible answer-in-waiting to the outbreak, though many experts caution more testing needs to be done. Cuomo said the Food and Drug Administration is sending 10,000 doses to the state.

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