Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday praised the feds for “stepping up” and dispatching the Army Corps of Engineers to New York to increase hospital capacity in what he called a “war” against the coronavirus — likening the much-needed ventilators to missiles in World War II.

“I think that’s the best news, frankly, that has happened. This is a war … we have to treat it like a war here in New York,” Cuomo said on NBC’s “Today.”

“In a war you need the federal government. States don’t fight wars — they did once but that was a big mistake,” he said a day after the White House said the Corps of Engineers would be deployed to the state.

“Equipment, equipment, equipment is going to be key. Ventilators is going to be key,” the governor said. “And the federal government recognizing that responsibility and fully mobilizing the way the president now has, I believe, that’s a very positive step.”

Asked whether he thought the health care system will be overwhelmed, Cuomo said he thought it will be.

“The question is, now, to what extent and with what consequence. That’s what we’re dealing with. We know that by all projections, we’re going to have more people than we can deal with in the health care system, so we’re trying to increase capacity in hospitals, building more hospital beds,” he said.

“We have a major problem on equipment. The gloves, the protective equipment and, again, the ventilators. In this war, ventilators are what the missiles were in World War II,” Cuomo continued.

“We have to make those missiles. We have to make those ventilators, get them made and that’s what the president’s talking about. But the question is how will we manage it now? How will we operationalize and mobilize and that’s why the federal government is going to be key,” he added.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Big Apple was almost 1,900 as of Wednesday. Across the state, nearly 3,000 have tested positive.

“We’re doing so many more tests that the positives have to go up. These tests were never indicative of how many people actually had the virus in society,” Cuomo said.

“Because we didn’t have the tests in time, frankly. So there are tens of thousands of people who have the virus, who had the virus, who probably had the virus and resolved themselves.”

Meanwhile, the governor again reiterated his opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pitch for a city shelter-in-place order.

“We’re fighting two things right now … we’re fighting the virus, and we’re fighting fear and panic. And the fear and the panic is actually a worse problem, in my opinion, than the virus right now,” Cuomo said.

Coronavirus COVID-19 reactions in Arlington, Virginia
A medical technician with a bullhorn directs an arriving car at a drive-through coronavirus testing site.

EPA/Erik S. Lesser

Virus Outbreak Military
Two hospital ships — the USNS Mercy, above in San Diego, and the USNS Comfort — will prepare for deployment to aid against the coronavirus outbreak.

AP/Gregory Bull

New York mounted police officers are seen on patrol at Times Square following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City
NYPD mounted police officers patrol Times Square on Thursday.

Reuters/Jeenah Moon

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People wear masks around Times Square on Thursday.

Christopher Sadowski

“We know what we have to do on the virus. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be disruptive, but we know what we have to do there. The fear and the panic can actually get out of control more than the virus can,” he said.

“Are we reducing density? Yes. Do we want people to stay home? Yes. Are we going to do quarantine, are people imprisoned in their homes? No.”