Tri-State Sees More Than 5,200 COVID-19 Deaths as Positive Cases Top 165K

To date, more than 165,000 people have been infected and more than 5,000 people have died in NY, NJ and CT; Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state could be near or at its apex of new cases, but it will take a few more days of data to know for sure

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What to Know

  • New York has reported more COVID-19 cases than China's Hubei province, where the pandemic started; its death toll has climbed above 5,200
  • New Jersey is the nation's second most-impacted state; Gov. Phil Murphy says he has ordered all flags lowered to half-staff "immediately and indefinitely" to acknowledge the lives lost and those that will be lost
  • More than 164,000 in the tri-state area have now tested positive for COVID-19; more than 5,000 have died, including first responders and children

New York City reached Sunday - the day Mayor Bill de Blasio warned would be a significant indicator to the city's success in assisting coronavirus patients - with enough medical supplies and personnel to last a few additional days.

New York City still had 135 ventilators as of Sunday, the mayor said; a number that could give the city's hospitals an additional two or three days before the stockpile would be depleted.

"We thought we could run out of ventilators as early as tonight or early morning, and now we believe we can get to Tuesday or Wednesday," de Blasio said Sunday. "That's a good sign."

Approximately 4,000 patients remain ventilators and an additional 1,000 more could be on ventilators by Wednesday, the mayor predicted.

Mayor de Blasio's next benchmark is Sunday, April 12, when he says New York City could need another 1,000-1,500 ventilators. During his briefing on Sunday, the mayor called on the federal government and state of New York to intervene. According to the mayor's data, the feds have a stockpile of roughly 10,000 ventilators and another 2,800 ventilators in the state's collection.

Late Sunday, New York officials confirmed the construction of an additional field hospital in New York City, to be established in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Assemblyman Dinowitz and Rep. Klein confirmed FEMA's plan.

On Sunday, Gov. Cuomo reported a slight drop in numbers of COVID-19 related deaths. Chris Glorosio reports.

In New York State, meanwhile, 122,031 people have tested positive for COVID-19, up from 113,704 on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday morning. The tri-state total now stands at 165,211 cases.

New York State has seen 4,159 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 3,565 on Saturday, Cuomo said at a news conference. New York City has seen 67,551 of the total novel coronavirus cases, including 4,245 new ones, he said.

A total of 37,505 people in New Jersey have tested positive for COVID-19, including 917 people who have died, according to data released by the state's health department Sunday afternoon.

And in Connecticut, the state's health department says 5,675 people have now tested positive for the virus. An additional 24 people died since Saturday's report, bringing the state's death toll up to 189 people.

New York state could be near or at its apex of new cases, but it will take a few more days of data to know for sure, Cuomo noted.

“The number of deaths is up, that’s the bad news… but the number of deaths over the past few days has been dropping for the first time,” he said. “What is the significance of that? It’s too early to tell.”

New York likely has the number of hospital beds it needs based on projections, but is still working to acquire enough ventilators and bring in enough medical personnel, Cuomo said. The federal government will deploy around 1,000 medical personnel to New York, 325 of whom are set to join the New York City public hospital system on Sunday, he added. 

“I hope we’re somewhere near the apex, or we’re somewhere near the plateau,” he said. 

Docked in New York City, the USNS Comfort may be adjusting its original protocols. The Navy ship was dispatched to the city in an effort to treat non-coronavirus patients to alleviate the strain on hospitals. On Sunday, President Trump and Vice President Pence confirmed the ship could pivot to treat patients who have COVID-19.

"That was not supposed to be for the virus at all and under circumstances. It looks like more and more we'll be using it for that," Trump told reporters at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. "The ship is ready and if we need it for the virus, we'll use it for that."

Sunday morning, a spokesperson confirmed at least five patients aboard the USNS Comfort had COVID-19.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force also announced plans to move 500 ventilators from the federal stockpile to New Jersey.

President Donald Trump on Saturday issued the order to dispatch an additional 1,000 medical military personnel in an effort to assist in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic in New York City.

"I am thrilled to say we're finally getting help from the federal government in terms of military personnel. We heard that from the president, it's something I've been asking him to do for the past week," de Blasio said Saturday evening, appearing on CNN.

De Blasio repeated his call for a national enlistment for healthcare personnel, an initiative he proposed Friday.

"I think we need to move farther. I think we need to mobilize completely because New York City is just the top of the spear. I think we need a national enlistment initiative fore healthcare personnel to be enlisted by the federal government," de Blasio said on CNN.

Murphy on Saturday said the state had "lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did in the September 11 attacks." "Please let that sink in for a moment," he said, calling the new numbers "particularly sobering."

Murphy said he planned to issue an order allowing the state’s municipalities and counties to “prohibit all rentals to transient guests or seasonal tenants for the duration of the emergency, including at hotels and motels.” 

“Social distancing does not work by relocating to the [Jersey] Shore,” he said.

The federal government will be staffing and equipping 2,500 beds at the Jacob K. Javits Center for COVID-19 patients, Cuomo said on Saturday.

“This is a dramatic help in our battle against time, spread and lacking hospital capacity,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter. “Reducing the strain on NYC area hospitals is a top priority.” 

The Chinese government will facilitate the donation of 1,000 ventilators, set to arrive at JFK Airport on Saturday, Cuomo added. The state of Oregon, meanwhile, will lend New York 140 ventilators. 

"That'll get us into next week for sure. How far into next week? We're still not sure," de Blasio said on CNN. "We think at some point next week we could have 5,000 people on ventilators."

"Look, I want this all to be over. It’s only gone on for 30 days, since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime,” Cuomo said at the news conference. "I think we all feel the same. This stresses this country, this state, in a way nothing else has, frankly, in my lifetime."

Cuomo will sign an executive order allowing medical students who were slated to graduate this spring to start practicing now, he said.

“These are extraordinary times and New York needs the help,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cuomo noted that two-thirds of people in the state admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 treatment have since been discharged.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday reiterated his call for a "national enlistment system" to recruit doctors, nurses and other health care workers and send them to cities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the crisis "the equivalent of being in a war."

During an MSNBC appearance Saturday morning, de Blasio said the crisis would be "like having many [Hurricane] Katrinas."

"Why is there not a national mobilization?" the mayor asked. "If enough Americans… call for it, it puts pressure on the president to move."

Cuomo authorized the National Guard to take ventilators from institutions that don't need them immediately and redistribute them to hospitals that do, as he reported Friday New York had seen its biggest single-day increase in deaths from the virus.

There's increasing need — and less turnover. Cuomo has procured thousands of ventilators in recent weeks but says the market has "collapsed" as states vie for the coveted life-saving machines and the federal stockpile dwindles. He is leveraging creative techniques to stretch supply like co-venting and retrofitting anesthesia machines. It's still not enough.

Cuomo and de Blasio maintain that facilities that have their ventilators redistributed will get them back; if that doesn't happen for one reason or another, they'll be reimbursed. And if their need eclipses others' at some point in the near future, he'll reallocate again.

"The practical solution at this point is focus on the emergency that is in front of you," the governor said Friday. "I'm not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have ventilators in our state somewhere else."

One projection from the Gates Foundation-funded IHME suggests New York could lose a total 16,000 people through the second week of May.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator, says Connecticut could be one of the nation's next hotspots. As of Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont had reported 165 deaths and 5,276 cases.

All of the unprecedented joint measures Cuomo, Murphy and Lamont have implemented mean nothing if people do not adhere to the most critical advice: Stay home. And when you go out, stay apart.

"Too much is at stake," Cuomo said. "We have to get this right."

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Nationally, the Trump administration said the CDC recommends all Americans wear non-medical face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. However, in the same press conference, Trump said that he would not be wearing any protective masks.

"I'm choosing not to do it. It's only a recommendation," Trump said.

Why now? You simply don't know: Did that person who crossed the street just ahead of you have the virus and recover? Could they still be contagious? Do they have COVID-19 now and show no symptoms? Are they sick and just pre-symptomatic?

"Studies are showing asymptomatic individuals are transmitting this disease," de Blasio said. He, along with the city's top doctor, Oxiris Barbot, stress the masks aren't to protect the people wearing them but to protect everyone else. And they're meant to reinforce the social distancing guidelines, not replace them.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. State Department official working as a coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, told reporters on Thursday that social distancing is the best protection.

De Blasio says up to half of New Yorkers could contract the virus at some point -- and many won't even know it. New CDC research suggests anyone can be a carrier of the virus, healthy-looking or not. It offered one particularly striking example. Two tourists who had no symptoms sat in a Singapore church. Two days later, a 52-year-old woman sat in one of the seats they had used. She got sick -- and researchers, using closed-circuit camera recordings of the church services, linked her infection to those tourists. Both of them later fell ill.

Mask use should not give people a "false sense of security," the White House's Dr. Birx warned; she says social distancing remains the best way to slow the spread of infection.

In New Jersey, Murphy said residents are welcome to use masks as long as they're not the ones needed on the front lines. But he reiterated the same message he and others have stressed for weeks: Social distancing is the best offense and defense against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"In the absence of a vaccine, it's our best surrogate vaccine. There is no silver bullet to make it go away overnight," the governor said Friday. "It will take all of us over the coming weeks to stay disciplined in our social distancing, disciplined in our hygiene and disciplined in our basic common sense."

Nationally, NBC News estimates that more than 300,000 people have been infected and more than 8,000 have died. New projections from the White House suggest up to 240,000 lives could be lost to the pandemic, even with mitigation efforts like social distancing. See how COVID-19 has spread across the United States since March 1 using this interactive map.

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