NY Deaths Up Nearly 1,000 After Possible Changes; Nature of New Cases Alarming: Cuomo

More than 31,000 tri-state lives have been lost to COVID-19 to date, though the actual toll is likely higher; the number of confirmed cases is nearing 500,000, though infection is also likely more widespread

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What to Know

  • More than 31,000 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
  • New Jersey has lagged New York on the downward slope of the infection curve, but Gov. Phil Murphy notes positive signs; his state's death toll eclipsed 8,500 Wednesday as he added more than 300 new names
  • New York City's subway system began its unprecedented overnight shutdown early Wednesday, a measure to allow for deep disinfecting of all trains in its fleet to better protect essential workers

UPDATE: An unexpected spike of nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on New York state's tracker Wednesday night was clarified in a note Thursday afternoon: "The increase in fatalities reflects new data reported Wednesday, May 6 in addition to confirmed fatalities within nursing homes and adult care facilities that were identified as part of a data reconciliation process earlier this week.

New York reported an increase of nearly 1,000 more deaths as a result of COVID-19 Tuesday into Wednesday, a massive spike that may have more to do with how the state counts the victims than a sudden surge in fatalities.

The state listed its death toll as 20,597 late Wednesday, a jump of 952 since the day before and an increase more than four times higher than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported in the afternoon. It was not immediately clear why the numbers were so dramatically higher, but it may be due to the state attributing deaths to those who did not die in hospitals or were officially tested.

If New York City's 5,359 probable fatalities were to be included into the state's total, it would be just under 26,000.

However, New York's infection rate has slowed overall, and Gov. Cuomo is shifting his focus to the new cases coming into hospitals as he looks to refine the state's containment strategy. Initial findings suggest most new cases are older people of color who have been sitting in their New York City homes -- and are still getting sick.

Preliminary data submitted by 113 hospitals over the last three days show most new admissions have mostly been staying home; they're predominantly from the downstate area (57 percent NYC, 18 percent Long Island) and people of color. Most of them are older and non-essential employees; 66 percent were admitted from their own residences.

Of the new New York City hospitalizations, 90 percent have not been traveling by car service, personal automobile, mass transit or even walking around. If they've been working, they've been doing it from home and apparently weren't going out much, the governor said.

Cuomo said these facts reaffirm the need for precautionary measures for personal safety and public health, including wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer. They also underscore the need to protect the most vulnerable.

“It reinforces what we’ve been saying, which is much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “Everything is closed down, the government has done everything it could ... now it’s up to you.

Total and new daily hospitalizations in New York have been on a slow and steady decline for days, as have the number of critically ill patients. The daily death tolls, while still staggering, are notably hundreds less each day than just a few weeks ago.

"Both the city and the state are on the other side of the curve, we have been for a while ... we want to see how far it goes down," Cuomo said on MSNBC. "The number of deaths is still terribly high ... but all the arrows are pointed in the right direction."

New Jersey has lagged New York a bit on the downward curve. Gov. Phil Murphy added more than 300 names to his state's death toll Wednesday. Still, he also says his state's infection rate is slowing, along with hospitalizations.

Murphy extended New Jersey's public health emergency another 30 days. The order expires after a month unless extended, and he assured New Jerseyans the extension did not mean the state was reconsidering its path forward.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he's hopeful New York City has turned a corner, citing strong but not yet strong enough signs of improvement. Hospital and ICU admissions were both a up slightly in the city on Wednesday, the mayor said.

"We publish every day, health care indicators to show the people of this city exactly where we’re going," de Blasio said on MNSBC. "They’ve been good; they have not been everything we need yet to take the next big steps in reopening."

In New York City, the epicenter of the national coronavirus outbreak, the road to reopening continued Wednesday with another unprecedented shutdown: Subways.

The city halted its storied overnight service starting at 1 a.m. to allow for deep cleaning and disinfecting of trains and stations, a mission to improve deteriorating conditions that Cuomo had described as a "disgusting" affront to the essential workers who use subways to get to work.

The governor had said one of his two greatest nightmares amid this crisis was healthcare workers, first responders and other key frontline staff saying they would decide to stay home, too. The other nightmare was not being able to stop the spread. New York has proven it can do the latter, Cuomo said.

The trains, which had been running on a reduced schedule since the rapid ascent of the virus in late March, will now be stopped from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day. The NYPD has assigned more than 1,000 officers to secure many of the system's 472 stations, as fewer than 200 can be physically locked up.

Outreach teams of cops and nurses are being sent to 29 end-of-line stations to rouse homeless people from trains headed out of service and help them to shelters. Long a fixture on the city's subways, the homeless have been more noticeable on trains lately, with ridership down more than 90 percent.

One Night 1 of the shutdown, de Blasio said 139 homeless people of 252 engaged agreed to accept support and to go in shelters. All 252 were moved out of the subway system, regardless if they accepted help or not.

"This number is extraordinary," the mayor said. "We have never seen so much success in a single night before, this high percentage of people who were living on the streets agree to something different."

MTA Chairman Pat Foye also described the first overnight shutdown as "successful" in a series of TV and radio interviews Wednesday.

“Every passenger was instructed to leave at 1 a.m. -- the homeless and every other passenger was treated with respect,” Foye, who himself was diagnosed with COVID-19, told 1010 WINS. “The NYPD presence was significant. It was productive and it helped in a major way in the cleaning and disinfecting.”

The stoppage has some people wondering if all-night service will ever resume in the cash-strapped system. Cuomo pledged Tuesday it will return when the pandemic is over.

Infection Rates Spike Outside New York as States Begin to Reopen

Take the New York metro area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the United States is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday.

Cuomo recognized those numbers Wednesday, saying the state is in "a much different place than the curve in the nation ... we're on the other side of the mountain so to speak."

New confirmed infections per day exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.

Painfully aware of the price of progress, New York and New Jersey governors say they will not rush to reopen their states. Both say they're eager to do so. They just don't want to go through the process of the last three months again. Ever.

That's how long it's taken a virus relatively unknown to science last fall to kill more than 31,000 people in the tri-state area -- and more than 72,000 people in the country.

"There's no magic wand, no recipe other than social distancing," Murphy said Tuesday. "If you're one of the folks itching to open, 385 entered the hospital in New Jersey yesterday with COVID-19. We hope all of them get out of there but sadly the data says not all will."

New York state alone has lost more than 20,000 people to the virus, more than 14,100 coming from the five boroughs. New Jersey has lost more to the virus than in all its wars combined -- 8,549 as of Wednesday. Connecticut's toll eclipsed 2,700 the same day.

"How many people are we willing to lose to open the economy in a rushed way? 100,000? 200,000? What's the number of lives? No one wants to talk about it that way," Cuomo asked, rhetorically. "In New York, my point is any human life is priceless and I am not going to put a price on it. And I don't think we have to sacrifice human life to reopen. Just do it intelligently, and do it on the data."

De Blasio said New Yorkers have succeeded in lowering virus infection rates by largely following social distancing orders and covering their faces in public.

“My message to the rest of the country is: Learn from how much effort, how much discipline it took to finally bring these numbers down and follow the same path until you’re sure that it’s being beaten back or else if this thing boomerangs you’re putting off any kind of restart or recovery a hell of a lot longer,” he said.

The mayor has also expressed desire to reopen the city, albeit responsibly and in due time, in order for the city to get the economy going and to avoid having to lay off city workers — including teachers and first responders, a notion that drew the ire of unions that represent those workers. He urged President Trump and the federal government to send some kind of bailout to recover from the $7.4 billion pitfall the city currently faces.

"We need to get that stimulus done so people don't have to experience layoffs," de Blasio said.

Infections have been confirmed in nearly 485,000 people locally -- 323,978 in New York, 131,890 in New Jersey and 30,995 in Connecticut -- though the actual number sickened could be up to 10 times that. Nationally, more than 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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