March 24 (UPI) -- Coronavirus cases in New York are doubling every three days, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government Tuesday to address a shortage of medical equipment to meet the surge.
Speaking to reporters at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed hospital, Cuomo said, "The increase in the number of cases continues unabated."
The surge is expected to reach its apex within two weeks, when the governor estimated that 140,000 hospital beds could be needed.
"One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We are now looking at a bullet train," Cuomo said.
He is asking the federal government to provide ventilators by invoking the Defense Production Act to require companies to manufacture them immediately.
"If we don't have the ventilators in 14 days, it does us no good," he said. "Not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me."
In New York City, Bill de Blasio said he plans to release certain inmates who fall within high-risk categories for coronavirus, including being over the age of 70, and having for major pre-existing health conditions -- chronic lung disease, heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised and those with obesity.
This will lead to the release of about 300 inmates serving less than one-year sentences for non-violent, misdemeanor offenses, on top of the 75 released Monday.
Trackers at Johns Hopkins University said New York now has more than 25,600 cases and 210 deaths, most of them in New York City. De Blasio said New York City has 14,776 cases and 131 deaths.
Nationally, the number of cases is nearing 53,000 and the death toll is 700, the university reported as of Tuesday afternoon.
During a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Tuesday, Dr. Deborah Birx said officials remain deeply concerned about New York City's metro area, calling on any people who have left New York to place themselves in quarantine for 14 days as they may have been exposed before leaving the state.
"Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn't spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it's Florida, North Carolina or out to Long Island," Birx said.
Director of the National Institute of Infectious Disease Dr. Anthony Fauci said such self-quarantine procedures are important to prevent travel from the state from becoming another "seeding point" for the virus to spread throughout the state.
"We're opening up this incredible country. Because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter," he said. "You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.
"It's not built to shut down. Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy. They don't want to be locked in a house or an apartment or some space.
With U.S. cases still climbing at rapid rates, health officials continued to urge social distancing and extensive measures for at least several weeks to mitigate the spread of the disease, for which there is no known cure.
The White House on Tuesday announced that Trump has approved Iowa's major disaster declaration, ordering federal assistance to the state to combat the virus.
The approval came as Gov. Kim Reynolds confirmed Iowa's first death to the virus -- a man between 61-80 years old from Dubuque County.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told the White House the New Orleans area is on track to reach the limits of its ability to deliver healthcare by the end of next week.
"With our current rate of new virus cases, our hospital current capacity to successfully treat infected patients will be exceeded," he wrote in a letter to the White House. "For the New Orleans area, the current projections of hospitalizations significantly exceed capacity beginning on April 4."
Orleans Parish has the highest rate of coronavirus cases outside New York and the sixth-highest rate overall in the United States, with over 500 cases and 20 deaths as of Monday.
Edwards has requested Trump to approve his major disaster declaration.
In Los Angeles County, the Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced the first death of a person under 18 in the United States for the virus, whose victims have predominately been seniors and those suffering from underlying health issues. No other information about the minor was released aside from that they were from Lancaster.
In Florida, the caseload has risen to more than 1,400. Sixty of the new cases were reported in Miami-Dade County.
Defying the trend across the country to keep college students at home, the evangelical Christian Liberty University in Virginia reopened its campus on Monday.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss their respective efforts. The United States has far surpassed the case total in South Korea, which received widespread praise for its efforts to control the outbreak in its early stages.
Meanwhile, Amazon said it's cracking down on price gougers and has deleted nearly 4,000 seller accounts for virus-related gouging and misleading claims.
"We are constantly monitoring our stores for unfair prices and listings that make false claims in regards to COVID-19," the company said. "We have dynamic, automated systems in place that locate and remove unfairly priced items."