New York

New York Tops 25k Deaths as Ex-FDA Head Warns Infection May Be ‘New Normal' for US

More than 30,000 people in the tri-state have died because of COVID-19, though officials admit the real toll is likely higher; confirmed infections are approaching 500,000 and are also likely more widespread

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • More than 30,000 people in the tri-state have died because of COVID-19, though officials acknowledge the real toll is likely higher; with NYC's probable fatalities included, NY state's deaths top 25,000 alone
  • Still, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are moving forward with their reopening strategies; NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will release its COVID-19 summer activities plan in the coming days
  • Connecticut joined NY and NJ Tuesday in closing K-12 public schools for in-person classes for the rest of the academic year

Three months. That's how long it's taken a virus relatively unknown to science to kill more than 30,000 people in the tri-state area -- and more than 70,000 people in the country.

Infections have been confirmed in more than 482,000 people locally, though the number sickened could be up to 10 times that.

"With all due respect, this is the fight of our lives," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday, as he announced yet another new milestone in his state's death count.

New York state has lost more than 19,600 people to COVID-19, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo adding another 230 to the toll Tuesday. That doesn't include New York City's 5,383 probable fatalities, which would bring the state's toll above 25,000. The state reported its first fatality on March 14.

New Jersey's first death came a few days earlier. Less than two months later, its toll has climbed to 8,244, with Murphy adding more than 330 more names Tuesday. Connecticut has lost 2,633.

The sudden ferocity of the virus has stunned America to its core, its impacts far transcending the relentless death. It's taken just a matter of weeks to send a robust national economy to the brink of another Great Depression, and that same amount of time to entrench a sense of uncertainty and fear so deep in the American public that this generation may never fully recover.

Still, three months into the coronavirus pandemic, states have been invigorated by incremental signs of improvement. Some have kickstarted their economic reboots; others, like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are taking smaller steps so as not to eradicate the gains they paid an excruciating price to make.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday announced his state's K-12 schools would stay closed to in-person instruction through the rest of the academic year, mirroring earlier decisions made in New Jersey and New York. It's just not safe enough yet to guarantee families and faculty the confidence they need to return to a classroom setting, the governors say.

Cuomo says reimagining education outside the traditional classroom is a key focus going forward. He said Tuesday the state will work with the Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint.

"We endured the pain. Let's benefit from the gain," Cuomo said Tuesday. "You take those periods and you try to learn from them and you try to grow."

The Empire State has done more than 1 million tests, more than any country in the world apart from its own, and confirmed 321,192 infections. After a day of good news regarding testing in the city, Tuesday was a bit of a setback: positive tests in NYC increased from 17 percent to 22 percent.

On the bright side, hospitalizations and ICU cases remain down, even as hundreds more deaths are reported each day. Though pictures of refrigerated trailers in a Sunset Park parking lot, likely used to house the overflow of dead victims in the city, gives a sobering reminder that the city is far from out of the woods yet.

New Jersey and Connecticut have reported more than 160,000 combined cases, the Garden State accounting for more than 130,000 of those. In what is a very small step back to normalcy, the archdiocese of Newark said it will once again allow people to visit grave sites starting Sunday, Mother's Day. The following day, burial restrictions will be loosened as well, with up to 10 people permitted to attend, versus just two under current social distancing rules in place.

It may never be possible to test every person in every state. That awareness is core to how states are charting their preliminary reopening strategies. As the entire world can agree, "No one wants to go through this twice." Some countries already have.

Former FDA commissioner and New York City emergency room physician Scott Gottlieb said on "Today" Tuesday he expects cases to go up as America begins to reopen. The current situation may be the "new normal," he cautioned, meaning states and the nation will have to do more to protect vulnerable populations.

"Projection models have doubled the number of expected deaths because of reopening acceleration," Cuomo said Tuesday, referring to new data from the widely watched IHME.

It's the model relied upon by infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, and President Donald Trump has acknowledged in recent days that the ultimate U.S. death toll may end up closer to 100,000 than 70,000, which it eclipsed Tuesday.

Before he left for Arizona Tuesday, Trump told reporters the new IHME model does not consider mitigation efforts. That doesn't appear to be the case. In its May 4 update notes, IHME says "our forecasts now account for locations that have lifted social distancing measures and assumes those measures will remain lifted through August 4. For locations that have not lifted social distancing, the model assumes measures will stay in place through August 4."

Some outlets have questioned the science behind the latest IHME projections. Ultimately, people have proven in this crisis they can change outcomes through their behavior, and that matters more than anything, Cuomo says.

"Each of us must do our part. Every person has a social responsibility here," the governor said. "That's what wearing a mask is all about. Just wear a mask."

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
Contact Us