Coronavirus

‘It’s About All of Us:’ Cuomo Cites Progress as NY, NJ Record Deadliest Days of Outbreak

To date, more than 191,000 people have been infected and nearly 7,000 people have died in NY, NJ and CT; New York may have hit its apex of cases while New Jersey says its peak is likely mid-month

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What to Know

  • New York is beginning to see signs it has hit a plateau, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said; he extended the statewide shutdown through April 29 to reinforce the social distancing measures he says have been working
  • New Jersey is the nation's second-most impacted state; Gov. Phil Murphy says its daily infection rate has also been slowing, but the state likely won't hit its peak until later this month
  • More than 191,000 in the tri-state area have now tested positive for COVID-19; nearly 7,000 have died, including first responders and children

New York recorded its deadliest day of the COVID-19 outbreak Monday, a spike of 731 deaths over a 24-hour period that sent the state's fatalities toll soaring near 5,500, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New Jersey reported the same sad milestone as well.

As of Tuesday, New York had 5,489 deaths, including a child younger than 10, and 138,836 total cases. Cuomo somberly acknowledged the totality of the loss, saying, "It's something I struggle with every day."

"This virus is very good at what it does. And it kills vulnerable people. We can't stop that," he added. "The question is, 'Are you saving everyone you can save?' There the answer is, 'Yes.' And I take some solace in that fact."

The increase, the state's biggest single-day jump to date, reflects patients who may have fallen critically ill early on, Cuomo said, calling it a "lagging indicator." The longer patients are on ventilators, the less likely they are to ever come off them, and two weeks later the number of deaths increases, the governor said. But the number of new patients needing ventilators on a daily basis is going down.

Cuomo says he remains hopeful New York may be turning a corner -- or at least leveling off. Intensive care admissions are slowing. Intubation rates are slowing. The state is no longer seeing five-digit jumps in its daily caseload. The number of hospitalizations appears to be plateauing. All of that should eventually lead to a slowing of the daily death rate as well, Cuomo said.

Cuomo was very clear in his message to New Yorkers: Now is not the time to take our collective foot off the gas. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Be smart. It's the same mantra each of the tri-state governors has repeated for weeks now, and one all three are pushing more urgently as daily infection rates begin to slow. Don't be complacent, they say.

"If we get complacen and the weather starts to turn warm in the Northeast and people start to go out, you're going to see that number go up," Cuomo said on CNN Tuesday evening. None of this is pre-determined. God hasn't said, "This is what's going to happen." It depends on what we do and people have to remember that."

The Gates Foundation-funded IHME model, which Cuomo has cited in several of his briefings, now predicts an earlier apex with lower morbidity for New York. At this point, that model projects resource use to peak by Wednesday and deaths to peak on Thursday, with about 15,600 total lives potentially lost by May 1. That ultimate fatality projection, which presumes full adherence to social distancing, is about 1,000 lower than it was a week ago.

To ensure New Yorkers don't grow lax on social distancing, Cuomo has doubled the maximum fine for violating protocol to $1,000. He also extended the statewide "PAUSE" order and school closures through April 29 to keep people home. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy extended his state's shutdown as well; to further social distancing compliance, he said Tuesday all state and county parks would be shut down. Cuomo previously closed playgrounds in New York City, which remains the epicenter of the national COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Tuesday, New York City itself had 76,876 total cases and 4,111 fatalities. The five boroughs account for more than a third of the nation's still-surging death toll.

That said, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged Tuesday a "meaningful" improvement in the numbers over the last few days that he says has bought the city more time to secure additional ventilators should they be needed.

There have been other encouraging signs as well. For the first time Sunday, most of the city's cases were people aged 50 or older. That trend has continued. Deaths are climbing but at a slower rate; more than 98 percent of all the people lost had underlying conditions or conditions under investigation.

The city has seen a higher rolling hospitalization rate (22 percent of all cases to date) than the state (13 percent); half of its hospitalized patients are 75 or older and 9 percent are children. But it now appears the state has the hospital beds it needs to manage the crisis. The additions of COVID-19 hospital beds on the USNS Comfort and at the Javits Center have provided significant relief.

More front-line help is incoming. The Department of Defense said 325 of its medical professionals had arrived in New York City and would start providing support to 11 public hospitals Wednesday. Additionally, the governor said 7,000 former health care workers will be deployed to hospitals throughout the state to help. New projections show New York could ultimately need a total of 20,000 COVID-19 beds to get through the crisis; that's less than a fifth of what those models indicated a week or two ago.

"We’re watching the numbers closely, but the need for social distancing, face covering and all the other precautions we’ve given New Yorkers stays the same," de Blasio said Tuesday. "Those are the best tools to slow the spread and save lives, and we cannot take our eye off that ball for a second."

As much as social distancing has helped slow the spread of infection, testing has been perhaps the most critical component of New York's response. The state has tested more per capita than anywhere else in the globe, Cuomo has said. More than 40 percent of the 300,000-plus tested to date have been positive, which is well above the national average.

Expanding testing infrastructure is critical to reaching the other side of this pandemic, Cuomo says: Find the positives, isolate and treat them. That is how you will get people back to work sooner, and how you can start to revive the virus-ravaged economy.

Antibody testing will be key in getting people back to work, Cuomo said. He said Tuesday that New York has developed an antibody test to determine who has had COVID-19 and recovered. The state is working with the FDA to bring it to scale. Rapid testing -- testing that can deliver positive results in 5 minutes and negative results in 13 minutes -- has also come to New York.

Cuomo said he, Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont have had preliminary discussions about how to restart the economy. We're not there yet, he noted, but said the three states would take a regional approach to rebooting their economies, just as they did in shutting them down.

Murphy said the three also discussed a possible regional approach to mobilizing resources for when COVID-19 comes back, which experts say it could.

New Jersey is the nation's second-most impacted state next to New York, reporting 44,416 cases and 1,232 deaths as of Tuesday -- including its biggest single-day increase in deaths yet, 229. But the state, which is tracking about a week behind New York on the curve, is also seeing reduced growth -- by double-digit percentage points -- in daily infections.

Murphy said the best-case scenario for is 86,000 peak infections by April 19. The worst-case scenario? More than half a million cases by mid-May.

Social distancing is the differentiator -- and the most valuable weapon at our disposal in this war, Murphy said. If New Jerseyans keep that up, and the state stays on the lower end of the curve, Murphy says he should have sufficient hospital capacity to manage the crisis.

Field hospitals have gone up in New Jersey as they have in New York, and the state got a further boost in capacity Monday when President Trump granted Murphy's request to allocate some beds on the USNS Comfort to New Jerseyans.

He and Cuomo have pledged to help out other states when their times of need come as the nation has stepped up to help theirs. Connecticut could be one of America's next hotspots, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator. As of Tuesday, Lamont had reported 7,781 virus cases there and 277 deaths, including a 7-week-old girl.

Regionally, the three states have a combined 191,033 cases and 6,998 deaths. They represent half of all cases in America, which NBC News estimates are nearing 400,000, and 56 percent of its deaths, which have surpassed 12,800. Nonessential business has been shut down for a month; the economic toll has been dizzying by any measure. Nationwide weekly jobless claims have spiked 10 times their previous record. A new survey says half of small businesses can't last more than two months under the current pressure.

Tens of millions of people have been isolated. The ultimate toll on the American psyche, and its lingering impacts, are incalculable at this point. As Cuomo has said, this crisis will transform a generation -- and shape another.

The White House has projected anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. lives could be lost to the pandemic. The nation's top doctor, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, said Tuesday that he expected America's death toll to come in under those projections "because I am seeing mitigation work." See how COVID-19 has spread across the country since March 1 using this interactive map.

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