Tri-State Sees 174 COVID-19 Deaths; Trump Deploys National Guard to NY

New York state's nonessential businesses must now be closed, according to the governor's PAUSE order

NBC Universal, Inc.

UPDATE: 'This Is Not a Joke:' Cuomo Rips NYC Over Crowds as State Case Total Nears 21,000 

President Trump on Sunday addressed the nation, announcing a number of federal actions his administration was undertaking to assist New York, California and Washington - the three states hit hardest by the growing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The president's address began hours before New York state's "PAUSE" order was set to take effect at 8 p.m., requiring the closure of all nonessential businesses in the state and asked all nonessential workers to stay home.

Trump says he has approved the Major Disaster Declaration requested by Governor Cuomo. The order brings National Guard troops and approximately 1,000 medical beds to New York, the president said. He also ran through a list of medical supplies delivered to the state earlier in the week, an order that the president says included hundreds of thousands of masks, surgical gowns, gloves and coveralls.

Trump says he’s giving governors in those three states help in calling up their national guard, keeping it under local control but providing federal funding.

During the president's briefing, Senators voted on a economic rescue package valued at nearly $1.4 trillion. The legislation ultimately failed to move forward after a procedural vote failed to gain the necessary votes to pass. The draft aid bill was declared insufficient by Democrats, who argued it was tilted toward corporations rather than workers and healthcare providers. The setback sent Republicans back to the negotiating table.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the draft package “significantly cut back our hospitals, our cities, our states, our medical workers and so many others needed in this crisis.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio remained critical of Trump's leadership, pointing to a lack of legislation supporting government at all levels.

"[Trump] didn't even mention the legislation - if we don't have money for cities, counties, states to handle, we won't be able to handle this," de Blasio said on MSNBC.

On Sunday, New York passed Washington state, the initial epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, in the number of fatal cases.

Earlier in the day, Mayor de Blasio said team sports and gatherings would not be allowed in New York City parks "for weeks, probably months" — hours after Gov Andrew Cuomo asked the city to come up with an "immediate" plan to address crowding in public spaces.

Parents bringing their kids to playgrounds should keep them away from kids from other families, de Blasio said. He also asked New Yorkers not to "linger" while exercising.

President Donald Trump approved the deployment of National Guard troops to assist California, New York and Washington in their fight against the coronavirus.

"We’re saying go out, get a minimum amount of exercise, get what you need and then get back indoors,” he said. "We’ll enforce through education, we’ll enforce through warnings, we’ll enforce through having real conversations with people to help them know what’s going on."

While de Blasio maintained that the enforcement wouldn't be “draconian," he noted the city eventually could end up imposing stricter rules. "Every single day instructions can change based on new circumstances, because we are dealing with something we have never dealt with before," he said.

When it comes to law enforcement, NYPD Commissioner Shea said Sunday that 98 members of the department had tested positive. Of those 98, 70 are uniformed officers and the other 28 are civilian members of the NYPD.

Shea insisted the department was "still in very good shape" with three of the 98 hospitalized and the other 95 recovering at home.

At his own press conference Sunday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act to get factories to manufacture masks, ventilators and other medical equipment. By Sunday night, the number of positive novel coronavirus tests in the state rose to 16,278.

The number of deaths in the state rose from 114, reported by Cuomo Sunday morning, to 150.

This makes Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the third member of Congress to announce a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.

In New York City, there have been 10,764 positive cases of COVID-19 and 99 deaths, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday night. Those positive cases include 3,050 in Queens, 2,324 in Manhattan, 3,154 in Brooklyn, 1,564 in the Bronx and 666 in Staten Island. As of 6 p.m. on Saturday, at least 1,800 people in New York City were hospitalized with the virus, at least 450 of whom were in ICUs.

Earlier in the day, the mayor's office reported 63 people had died in New York City, all of whom were 45 years old or older, de Blasio said at his own news conference Sunday afternoon.

Seventy percent of the 114 people reported Sunday morning who passed away were 70 years old or older, and the majority had underlying health conditions, Cuomo noted; approximately 80 percent of the people under 70 years old who died also had underlying health conditions.

New York State is competing with other states for crucial supplies, Cuomo said, adding that “that’s not the way it should be.”

“This is just an impossible situation to manage,” he said. “If we don’t get the equipment, we can lose lives that we could have otherwise saved if we had the right equipment.”

Cuomo said he has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to erect temporary hospitals at Stony Brook University, SUNY Old Westbury, the Jacob K. Javits Center and in Westchester County, and asked FEMA to erect four federal hospitals at the Javits Center.

The governor is also asking the Army Corps of Engineers for hospitals in Westchester County and on Long Island.

A Department of Health emergency order, meanwhile, will require hospitals to increase their capacity by anywhere from 50 to 100 percent, Cuomo said.

"This is a law that the hospitals must come up with a plan to increase capacity," he said. All elective, non-critical surgeries, meanwhile, will be canceled as of Wednesday, he added.

After calling for federal aid, Cuomo turned to the situation in New York City, saying he visited the five boroughs on Saturday and saw "a density level... that is wholly inappropriate."

"You would think there was nothing going on in parts of New York City. You would think it was just a bright, sunny Saturday. I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get," he said, noting that parks were particularly crowded. "It’s insensitive, it’s arrogant, it’s self-destructive, it’s disrespectful to other people and it has to stop, and it has to stop now.”

New York City must develop an "immediate plan to correct this situation" that Cuomo's team can review within 24 hours, he added.

He demanded a plan from the city within 24 hours to reduce the density of people in public spaces.

In a tweet after Cuomo's remarks, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson vowed that the council would do "all we can to make this happen." "As I said last week, we must get creative, including closing streets to maximize pedestrian space," he wrote.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday also asked the federal government to do more in response to the crisis, saying New York City is "about 10 days away now from seeing widespread shortages of really fundamental supplies."

"April is going to be a lot worse than March and I fear May could be worse than April," the mayor said. “If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die."

“We have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point," he added. "We’ve made this plea publicly, privately, letters, phone calls, you name it. Very, very little has arrived."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday, meanwhile, said a total of 1,914 people in the state have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus, up from 1,327 on Saturday.

The state also saw four additional deaths, bringing its total to 20, Murphy said, adding that he was "continuing to ask the federal government for help."

Murphy said the state will be providing “critical telehealth and tele-mental health options for more than 3 million residents.” 

“These services will be accessible without co-pays and will ensure residents have flexible access to vital care from the comfort and safety of their homes,” he tweeted. 

The County of Union will open a testing facility at Kean University for residents, first responders and county workers on Monday, Murphy added.

By Monday evening, the entire tri-state will be asked to self-quarantine as orders from governors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut take effect, closing all non-essential businesses.

The three tri-state governors have already taken unprecedented joint action — banning crowds of more than 50, restricting restaurants to take-out and delivery, closing schools, gyms, bars, casinos and indoor shopping malls to help slow the pandemic. Now they've added personal care businesses to the shutdown list, effective as of 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21.

New Jersey was the first state whose new rules went into effect, closing non-essential businesses Saturday night. Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday asked "nearly all" state residents to stay at home in light of the growing novel coronavirus crisis, signing an executive order that will close all non-essential businesses and cancel all gatherings.

Included in the closures, unexpectedly, were the drive-thru testing sites in Bergen County. The state-run sites reached capacity shortly after opening Saturday morning. Murphy on Saturday said the site had tested 1,000 people since Friday.

The Bergen County site will reopen Sunday morning while a second site is expected to open Monday in Holmdel in Monmouth County.

Late Saturday, officials announced a dramatic spike in positive case on Rikers Island. Twenty-one inmates tested positive, that up from the first case reported by de Blasio on Wednesday. An additional 17 employees also tested positive, according to Jacqueline Sherman, the New York City Board of Correction's Interim Chair.

The Board of Correction, which provides independent oversight of the city's jails, sent a letter to New York officials over the weekend with two principle recommendations: to "immediately remove from jail all people at high risk of dying" and "rapidly decrease the jail population."

She says 58 people are being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units and likely passed through "hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff."

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in New York City rose to 60 by Saturday night, Mayor de Blasio's office said, accounting for two-thirds of reported deaths in the tri-state.

That brings the entire tri-state to 90 deaths related to the novel coronavirus. An additional 585 positive cases in the city raised the tri-state's total to 13,740.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphasized that an increase in numbers reflects the number of tests the state has been carrying out.

"The more tests you take, the more positives you will find," Cuomo said. "We are taking more tests in New York than any place else." New York State had done a total of 45,437 tests as of Saturday morning, compared to California's 23,200 tests and Washington state's 23,343 tests he added.

Fifty-five percent of people who have tested positive in New York State are between the ages of 18 and 49, Cuomo noted. 

Meanwhile in Newark, the mayor put three "hotzone" neighbors under a mandatory quarantine. The mayor's order asks people to stay inside, to shelter in place unless for an emergency.

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Murphy said the New Jersey executive order — scheduled to take effect at 9 p.m. — includes all events, including weddings and parties.

"This decision is not an easy one, and it pains me that important life moments will not be celebrated in the way we are accustomed to," Murphy said. "I know this will be disappointing to many residents, but my singular goal, our singular goal... is to make sure we get through this emergency."

The state's travel curfew for non-essential workers is now effectively a 24-hour one, Murphy said. "We don't want you out there, period," he added.

The order "provides for certain exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities," a release from Murphy's office notes.

The order also requires that "all businesses or non-profits, wherever practicable... accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements," according to the release.

Businesses and non-profits that can't do so "should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue," the release adds.

A total of 1,327 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, Murphy said Saturday, up by 442 from Friday. Five more people have died, bringing the number of novel coronavirus-related deaths in the state to 16, he said.

The state of New York will send 1 million masks to New York City in light of the growing number of novel coronavirus cases in the five boroughs, he said.

"One million masks won't get us through the crisis, but it will make a significant contribution to New York City's mask issue," he said, though he noted the state still has a shortage of hospital gowns.

The state has identified 6,000 new ventilators to purchase to handle the growing crisis, Cuomo said. It is also eyeing sites including the Jacob K. Javits Center, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center as locations at which to build new beds.

"I don't believe it's going to be a matter of weeks; I believe it is going to be a matter of months," he said of the crisis.

In a CNN interview on Sunday, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for the production of hospital of equipment.

"We cannot wait until people start really dying in large numbers to start production especially of more complicated equipment like ventilators and hospital beds," she said. "We need to start this production right now to get ready for the surge that is coming in two to three weeks."

Effective immediately, non-essential gatherings of any size are banned and strict social distancing — maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others in public — must be obeyed. Public transportation will keep running to get nurses, doctors, law enforcement officers, and other essential personnel where they need to go. Everyone else is asked to use mass transit only if absolutely necessary.

"I strongly support what he's doing," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House news conference Friday. "I know what New Yorkers can do. We're tough."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City — which he called "the epicenter of this crisis" — would be enforcing the governor's policies. As part of the new measures, the mayor said all field permits, events and team sports at city parks would be canceled so as to avoid people gathering or coming in close contact. De Blasio said that the goal is not to kick people out of parks, but rather to maintain spacing between people.

Non-compliance by businesses may result in fines or summonses; at this point, there are no legal consequences for individuals but crowds violating the new orders will be broken up. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that while summonses and arrests are a last resort for uncooperative individuals, there have been very few instances where it has come up.

Cuomo acknowledged businesses will be forced to close; families will face severe financial strain — and he announced a 90-day moratorium on all commercial and residential evictions to try and ease the immediate burden. But if all of these measures save just one life, the governor said, they are worth it.

Desperate for Federal Help

While Wuhan, China, announced two consecutive days of no new cases, floods more people in New York are requiring treatment for COVID-19 — and Mayor Bill de Blasio says there are only a few weeks left before hospitals run out of critical supplies to help combat the respiratory disease.

"We now constitute 30 percent of the coronavirus cases in the United States of America, 70 percent of the cases in the state of New York," de Blasio said Friday. "We will run out of basic medical supplies because of the intense strain that's being put already on our hospitals by this crisis. We literally will not have the things we need to save people's lives."

He and Cuomo have called on the Trump administration to use U.S. military resources to funnel at least 3 million N95 masks, 50 million surgical masks, 15,000 ventilators, and 25 million each of surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves, and face masks to health care workers in the Empire State.

The president has invoked the Defense Production Act, which allows the federal government to order private companies to manufacture needed equipment. Late Friday, President Trump also approved a disaster declaration for New York, giving the state access to emergency aid and funding. But it's not clear when the help will come — or if it'll be enough to fill the dizzying gaps in supply.

Cuomo projects peak infection is still 40-plus days out. By that point, New York state could need 110,000 hospital beds, more than double its current capacity, and more than 37,000 ICU beds. Right now, the state has 3,000 of the latter.

Statistically, about 80 percent of people who get the novel coronavirus self-resolve without needing further treatment; overall, the risk to the general public is low. New York has seen its percentage of cases requiring hospitalization hover around 18 to 24 percent, while New Jersey said Wednesday that a stunning 55 percent of its cases to date have required hospitalization.

There just aren't enough beds; Cuomo said Friday he was canceling non-critical elective surgeries statewide as of next week to help expand capacity. Ultimately, he said, beds aren't even the biggest concern.

Ventilators are a national problem. In New York, Cuomo says there are 5,000 to 6,000 ventilators right now; the state is expected to need at least five times that.

"The ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War II," he said.

New Yorkers are doing their part to answer the call. More than 2,000 retired medical personnel activated themselves in the last 48 hours, de Blasio said Friday morning. Designer Christian Siriano reached out to Cuomo, saying he had a team of sewing staff working from home to help make masks.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The depths of the outbreak -- and its impact -- are incomprehensible at this point but most definitely catastrophic: Billions upon billions of dollars have been lost and more will be lost; many have died, far more have been sickened. And the grim totals will rise.

As de Blasio said on HOT 97 Wednesday, "This is going to fundamentally change all of our lives for months, it's just a question of how many months."

The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, the first coronavirus to ever earn the dubious distinction. It's novel -- that means it's new and no one has immunity to it.

Vaccines are in the works -- and a new clinical trial launched Monday.

Public health officials say it will take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. Other medical options are in the works, including experimental drugs and antiviral therapies. One of the companies leading the experimental drug charge said it has five clinical trials worldwide, three of which have United States patients enrolled. But there's no proof yet that it's safe or effective.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
Contact Us