What to Know
- New York's daily death toll surged Tuesday after a decline a day earlier, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to hopeful numbers on hospitalizations
- Much of the focus has turned to talk of how to reopen state economies; Cuomo is leading a new coalition of seven governors focused on that
- To date, nearly 285,000 people have been infected in NY, NJ and CT and more than 14,000 have died; NJ Gov. Phil Murphy says his state still hasn't hit a plateau
New York's daily death toll surged back near 800 Tuesday, a day after falling below 700 for the first time in a week, while its coronavirus caseload surpassed 200,000, according to the state's Department of Health. Still, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to signs of optimism as total hospitalizations finally showed a net decrease.
"The volume is still high," Cuomo said, adding the escalation in deaths stemmed primarily from patients in nursing homes, not hospitals. That's something the state is looking at, Cuomo said, but given the vulnerability of the population, there are limits to what can be done to save those lives.
"Take some comfort in the fact that we have demonstrated we can actually control the spread of the virus -- now, it took tremendous pain to do it but thank God we can control the spread," the governor said Tuesday. "What we are doing today will control the infection rate tomorrow. You stop what you are doing or you behave differently and you will get a different result."
If people start going outside and stop mitigation efforts, the infection rate would surge within three days, Cuomo warned. It's only by continuing the behaviors that have proven to be impactful that the state, and the nation, can begin to think about next steps. The question isn't so much when we'll get back to normal. It's how normal will change going forward.
"How you reopen is everything," Cuomo said Tuesday. He is at the helm of a new coalition of seven governors that plans to try to figure that out.
There's no flicking a switch. It's about a path toward easing, not eradicating, isolation; and recalibrating who is an essential worker, Cuomo says. There will be points of resolution over time. "We could lose all the progress we made in one week if we do it wrong," he said.
After warring with President Trump all morning over who has the authority to reopen individual states, Cuomo tried to lay down the hatchet in his Tuesday briefing, saying this is a time to put heads together and be smart.
"I look forward to working with the president in cooperation. He has no fight here," Cuomo said -- unless, of course, Trump endeavors to make a unilateral move against what the governor believes to be the best interest of public health.
"If he says to me, 'I declare it open,' and that is a public health risk, or it's reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it," Cuomo said on MSNBC earlier Tuesday. "If we don’t reopen correctly, you will see those virus numbers go up again, and more people will die. And we paid a heck of a price."
As of Tuesday, New York had 202,208 COVID-19 cases on its own, with 10,834 dead. That's about a third of all cases in America, and more than 40 percent of the country's deaths.
While those are the state's numbers, New York City's Department of Health released its own death toll figures that paint a much more morbid picture — with thousands more residents having likely died due to the virus. According to the city, there have been at least 10,367 confirmed or probable deaths in the five boroughs alone, which is nearly 2,500 more than the state said. That would put the state's death toll above 13,000, and the tri-state's approaching 17,000.
The probable cases now being counted by authorities were those who likely died of COVID-19, but died before they could be tested. The change in the city’s accounting of deaths came after officials acknowledged that statistics based only on laboratory-confirmed tests were failing to account for many people dying at home before they reached a hospital or even sought treatment.
While even those numbers would signify a massive jump, a source also told NBC New York that the city may be wildly under-reporting the number of COVID-19 deaths. The source said there were more than 8,000 non-coronavirus deaths reported within NYC from March 11-April 13. For comparison, the city health department confirmed there were 5,167 deaths during that same time span last year — meaning there would've been a sudden, nearly 66 percent spike in deaths unrelated to the pandemic year-over-year, which would be unheard of. If those deaths were indeed related to COVID-19, the city's death toll would actually be around 13,000.
New Jersey remains the nation's second-most impacted state next to New York, with nearly 70,000 cases and more than 2,800 dead as of Tuesday. The increase in daily deaths (365) reflected a new high, but Gov. Phil Murphy said the number reflected fatalities that occurred outside just the last 24 hours. Like New York, long-term care facilities have been an area of prime concern in New Jersey. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state is prohibiting admissions at facilities that can't effectively execute prevention guidelines.
Connecticut, also struggling on the nursing home front, had 13, 989 COVID-19 cases and nearly 700 deaths as of Gov. Ned Lamont's last report.
While Cuomo says the worst may be behind us, he says the crisis itself likely won't be over until we have a vaccine, which could be anywhere from a year to 18 months out, if not longer. He has called for more widespread testing to help reignite the economy, issuing repeat pleas, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others, to the federal government to bring that up to scale.
Murphy re-upped his call for federal help on testing Tuesday.
"I think we've played a very tough hand as well as it can be played, but we can't begin to think about reopening unless the resources we get from the federal government are more robust than we have been," he said. "We'll continue to play our hand to its maximum potential, but boy we need help."
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
A 'Made in New York' Approach to Testing
Frustrated with Washington, de Blasio said Tuesday New York City was taking its testing supply chain into its own hands and unveiled a plan through which he said the five boroughs could become virtually self-reliant in that regard.
He said Indiana-based Aria Diagnostics would donate 50,000 testing kits and, starting April 20, the city would buy 50,000 more kits a week, including nasal swabs, tubes and viral transport medium (VTM) to transport specimens. Cuomo cast some doubt on de Blasio's ability to buy the tests he said he intended to purchase, citing intense market competition.
Even if that proves an issue, the mayor said the city's Economic Development Council is building a new supply chain as well -- one that would produce up to 50,000 more tests weekly.
“Starting in a few weeks we will be producing here in New York City 50,000 test kits per week with components put together right here, with companies, universities, New York City workers right here building a brand new supply chain to feed this industry that will now develop in New York City,” de Blasio said.
Local manufacturers and 3D printers will produce testing swabs and tubes, while academic and commercial labs will produce VTM. Production is expected to begin in early May. Ultimately, the goal is to get New York City a steady supply of 400,000 new testing kits a month, de Blasio said.
"If the federal government can't get this done then get out of the way so we can get this done," the mayor said. He asked for ongoing federal support, saying "give us the components," and opened the door for any group or individual who wants to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
State and city officials have stressed the need to greatly expand coronavirus testing before any relaxation of social distancing guidelines can be contemplated. Health care workers have complained throughout the virus pandemic of shortages of personal protective equipment like gowns and face shields.
De Blasio said eight city companies are now making 240,000 face shields a week and will ramp up to 465,000 by April 24 and to 620,000 soon after. He said five companies are making 30,000 surgical gowns a week and the goal is more than 250,000 weekly.
New York has done more COVID-19 testing per capita than anywhere in the globe, but Cuomo has said it's still not enough. New testing strategies are in the works. Rutgers University, for example, just received emergency FDA authorization for the first saliva test in the United States to diagnose COVID-19. More scaleable antibody testing is in development as well.
Paving the Way to a New Normal
Though the curve of new COVID-19 cases is flattening, people are still getting sick, people are still being intubated and put into intensive care, and people are still dying. One month after its first death, New York City itself has now lost more than 7,900 people by the state's count. According to the city, that number is more than 10,300.
"There's real pain in this city right now, and I think we should be very careful to not declare a new reality until we're sure. I'm not sure we have a plateau yet, I'm not sure there couldn't be a resurgence," de Blasio said on MSNBC Monday.
He wants to see the number of hospitalizations, the number of ICU admissions and the percentage of people testing positive all trend down, in unison, for at least 10 days before he considers easing any restrictions in the city. In his Monday briefing, the mayor said all three had gone down. That was one day. By Tuesday, he said the latter two indicators had gone up again.
"This is the real world, real talk. We had a really good day yesterday. Today, no such luck. It doesn't mean you should be discouraged," de Blasio said Tuesday. "We have to fight our way out of this. We've got to start some momentum here. Then we'll be in a position to talk about our next steps."
As for New Jersey, Murphy says there is no one who would like to see an economic reboot more than him, but worries anything too sudden could trigger a resurgence. He says his state has yet to hit a plateau as Cuomo says New York has done, and urges New Jerseyans to "keep our foot down" on social distancing.
"Let's only go through this once. Let's keep our focus on what we have to do today," Murphy said Tuesday as he mourned the lives lost. "We will get through this, and we will get through this together as one extraordinary New Jersey family."
The federal government's coronavirus relief packages were seen as one route to get the economy going once the shutdowns could be lifted, however a major part of that may be delayed a bit. The checks being sent out to across the country may be held up after President Trump demanded that his name be put on the checks, an unprecedented move that could delay them being sent for a few days. Also on Tuesday, the president cut off U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, pending a review of the group's procedures.
One of the most widely cited virus models, from the Gates Foundation-backed IHME, estimates that new deaths in the tri-state area will more or less end by the first week of May, assuming social distancing is maintained. The latest projections forecast virus-related deaths to peak around 14,500 in New York and 4,400 in New Jersey by May 1. Connecticut likely won't see its curve stabilize until early June, when it is expected to reach about 5,400 fatalities. That same model predicts more than 50,000 deaths nationally around the same time.
To date, the United States has seen more than 600,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths, according to NBC News estimates.