Flatten the Curve

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Flatten in NY Amid Deadliest Week Yet

To date, more than 262,000 have been infected and more than 12,000 people have died in NY, NJ and CT; still, there are signs the curve is flattening

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What to Know

  • Signs show the curve of infections is flattening; Gov. Andrew Cuomo warns the death toll is "stabilizing at an horrific rate"
  • More than 262,000 in the tri-state area have now tested positive and more than 12,000 have died
  • Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio doubled down on keeping New York City schools closed, offering differing opinions on strategy

Easter traditions looked different Sunday in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of gathering in pews, communities gathered online as the coronavirus spread continues to threaten daily life.

Uncertainties loom about the months ahead, but tri-state leaders at the end of the week pointed to small measures of success and offered hope for the weeks ahead.

Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated Sunday that data reported from hospitals across the state reflect a flattening of the curve, an objective desperately needed for the public's safety and an early step toward reopening the state.

Gov. Cuomo's press secretary Melissa DeRosa says that a study into the use of Hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19 in New York State will report preliminary results on April 20.

"All the numbers are on the downward slope. Still, people getting infected. Still, people going to the hospital," Gov. Cuomo said Saturday. The governor said the number of daily ICU admissions and intubations, over a three-day average, are down.

New York posted its first negative number for ICU admissions on Thursday since the crisis began — with more people getting out than going in. However, Cuomo warned the death toll will continue to rise. It's a “lagging indicator,” reflecting people who had been hospitalized before this week, he says. The fatalities have overwhelmingly been from the most vulnerable patients — those on ventilators.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday the increase in daily intubations continues to fall, dropping to an average increase of roughly 70 per day. One week ago, 200-300 more people were needing intubation than the day before, de Blasio said.

In terms of supplies, the mayor said hospitals are staffed with the minimum number of N95 masks, surgical masks and gloves to get through the upcoming week. Face shields and surgical gowns are stocked as well, but just barely.

De Blasio also announced the immediate opening of 500 non-clinical staff positions throughout New York City's Health and Hospitals system. The positions will fill roles in patient transport, clerical work and cleaning, de Blasio said.

But Sunday marked the state's sixth consecutive day New York recorded more than 700 deaths related to the coronavirus. The state's death toll crossed 9,000 to 9,385 after an additional 758 people were reported dead, according to Gov. Cuomo.

The governor added that although cases have not greatly declined, the number has begun to flatten. To date, more than 12,000 people in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have died from complications related to COVID-19.

governor andrew cuomo at daily briefing
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers update on the number of dead related to the coronavirus.

De Blasio doubled down on his plan to close all New York City public schools for the remainder of the academic year, in direct contradiction with Gov. Cuomo. On Sunday, both politicians positioned themselves the authority to make the final call on the country's largest school district.

When asked about the decision, de Blasio said, “We were quite certain it was the right thing to do." Cuomo, roughly an hour later, said he respected de Blasio's opinion on keeping schools closed for the rest of the academic year, but that the governor needs to coordinate plans with regional leaders.

"The position of ‘I think schools should be closed,’ that’s not an unreasonable position," Cuomo said. "He doesn’t have to worry about Nassau, Suffolk. He doesn't have to worry about New Jersey, and Connecticut. But I do." 

Over the weekend, Governor Cuomo and Murphy announced executive orders requiring the use of face coverings for essential workers in who interact directly with the public. Employers will be directed to provide their employees with either cloth or surgical face coverings, the governors said.

In addition, Murphy said he was signing an executive order directing New Jersey Transit and all private carriers to cut capacity on trains, buses, light rail and paratransit vehicles by 50%. He was also mandating that riders use face masks unless prevented from doing so due to a medical condition.

New Jersey secured 200 additional ventilators from the federal government, Murphy said Sunday, calling the equipment "our number one need right now."

On CNN, the New Jersey governor said certain models suggest the state is reaching its peak, but cautioned against reopening the state and relaxing social distancing rules too early.

“And I fear, if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire, even inadvertently,” Murphy said.

More than 2,300 people with COVID-19 have died in New Jersey, and more than 61,000 have tested positive.

The widely cited Gates Foundation-funded IHME model projects New York's daily death rate will decrease going forward; nonetheless, that model still has another 14,000 people dying in the tri-state between now and early June.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say. Roughly one in 10 workers has lost a job in the last 21 days; a record 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak started. President Trump plans to unveil a second White House virus task force, this one focused on the economy, a senior administration official confirmed.

New York alone has seen 810,000 unemployment claims since March 9. It has processed 600,000 of them. With hundreds of thousands still in limbo, the state is launching a new unemployment site that won't require a phone call. For 2 million rent-stabilized tenants in New York City, De Blasio is calling for a rent freeze and a legal change that would let them pay their rent with security deposits.

Public health and the economy aren't mutually exclusive priorities, Cuomo has said. He has had preliminary discussions with Murphy and Lamont about developing a uniform regional approach to rebooting their economies, just as they did several weeks ago in shutting them down.

What might that look like? Cuomo offered no immediate specifics, saying we're not quite there yet. But he did say that "the key to reopening is going to be testing. I've said that from day one." The governor is talking about more than typical COVID-19 tests -- he's talking about newly FDA-approved antibody testing. And bringing that to scale.

Cuomo says antibody testing, which identifies people who have recovered from COVID-19, will hasten a return to the workforce. He, along with some of the nation's top experts, say it's unlikely someone who has had the novel coronavirus will get re-infected because their course with it may grant them the precious immunity no one had before becoming infected with it themselves.

If testing gets to the point where people can be tested for antibodies even without a prior COVID-19 test, many more could get back to work even sooner.

But pace is the issue — Cuomo said the state can do 300 a day today, 1,000 a day by next Friday and 2,000 a day by the following week.

"It's still not enough if you want to reopen on a meaningful scale and reopen quickly," he said, calling on President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to massively increase test availability. "That sounds like a lot. But it's a drop in the bucket."

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