As New York—the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak—continues to see a decline in infection rates and daily death tolls, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged for society-wide changes and stressed that opportunity can come out of the pandemic.
“When we look back, we can say, ‘Wow, we went through hell, but look at all the lessons we learned and look at how much better we made this place from this incident,’” Cuomo said at his latest press conference in Albany, comparing how New York City rebuilt after the attacks of 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy. “Let’s use this situation, this crisis, this time, to actually learn the lessons.”
More than 14,300 people have died and 242,786 have been infected by COVID-19, which continues to spread across the Empire State. While he reported the joyless news that more than 478 residents died overnight, Cuomo said New York is “past the high point” of the virus as the death toll has dropped sharply, the rate of hospitalizations has decreased, and the number of ICU admissions has taken a significant fall over the last five days.
“The question is, how long is the descent, and how steep is the descent?” he said. “Nobody knows. Just as nobody knew how long the ascent was, nobody can tell you how long the descent is.”
Cuomo said that after another month of “closed-down policies,” state officials will start determining what other businesses are essential, or what changes can be made in order to reopen without risking a resurgence of the killer virus. He said that although the state needs to “reimagine” society as it works to reopen businesses, there is no question that the process needs to happen as quickly as possible.
“You don’t need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes,” Cuomo said, stating that despite public frustration, he wants to “plan and change what we could normally never do unless you had this situation.”
In New York City, hospital systems remain overwhelmed with patients, with physicians struggling to keep up with the wave of new cases that continue to surge daily.
The New York State Nurses Association on Monday filed multiple lawsuits regarding the ongoing lack of supplies, accusing the state and at least two hospitals of “compromising the health and safety” of its members on the frontlines. In addition to demanding supplies for the thousands of New York nurses it represents, the union is also calling for prioritization of COVID-19 testing for health-care workers.
“More than seven in ten of our nurses are reporting exposure to COVID-19 and most are still untested. These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients, and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections,” Nurse Pat Kane, the union’s executive director, said in a statement. “We cannot allow these dangerous practices to continue.”
Reiterating Cuomo’s warning that hospitals are still under siege and the latest lawsuits, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on President Donald Trump on Monday for a stimulus program to help cities and states most affected by the virus.
”Mr. President, you’re the only one who’s been missing in action right now,” de Blasio said, adding that all Trump has to do is say the word so New York “can be made whole.”
“I think I’m the only person in history to challenge Trump to speak up—he’s not shy.”
Cuomo on Monday also made his now-daily plea for more federal aid, stating that the money would be “hazard pay” for frontline workers and ensure that cuts do not have to be made to schools, local government, and hospitals.
But for now, while the federal government “has not funded states,” Cuomo said his administration has a plan to “fight for New Yorkers.” He said the New York Department of Health has begun to conduct an antibody testing survey, sampling about 3,000 people across the state.
The survey is among several steps—including coordinating with the federal government to ramp up diagnostic testing—state officials are taking to determine when, and how, individuals will return to work. New York has developed a COVID-19 antibody test and state officials are working with the FDA to get it approved.
White House Coronavirus Task Force member Anthony Fauci, however, warned that antibody tests alone may not determine whether someone who has recovered from COVID-19 is now immune. Fauci said that while this is an assumption that an individual with an antibody for a virus is “protected against reinfection,” experts have not proven that is the case for COVID-19.
“The problem is that these are tests that need to be validated and calibrated, and many of the tests out there don’t do that. So even though you hear about companies flooding the market with these antibody tests, a lot of them are not validated,” Fauci said in a Monday interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, stating that the medical community still has “a way to go.”
As Cuomo addressed the emphasis New York and neighboring states are putting on testing to start the process of re-opening, Trump seemingly slammed the Democratic governor for his plan—emphasizing how local governments have shifted their pleas to the federal government from medical supplies to tests.
Trump’s tweets come days after he sparred with Cuomo over the president’s assertion he had “total authority.”
“Last month all you heard from the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats was, ‘Ventilators, Ventilators, Ventilators.’ They screamed it loud & clear, & thought they had us cold, even though it was the State’s task,” Trump tweeted on Monday, while Cuomo spoke. “But everyone got their V’s, with many to spare. Now they scream ‘Testing, Testing, Testing’ again playing a very dangerous political game. States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing - But we will work with the Governors and get it done. This is easy compared to the fast production of thousands of complex Ventilators!”