Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that New York has recorded the largest single-day increase in the number of deaths related to the novel coronavirus, despite indications that hospitalizations are plateauing in the state.
So far, more than 5,500 people have died and 138,836 more have been infected with the virus in New York State. Over the last 24 hours alone, 731 people died, the state’s highest single-day death toll since the first known infection last month, Cuomo said.
“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother,” Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany. “So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.”
The devastating increase comes just one day after Cuomo was cautiously optimistic about New York seeing a “possible flattening of the curve” after two days in which the rate of new deaths seemed to slow.
Cuomo said that despite the spike in deaths over the last day, New York is still seeing a falling rate in the number of hospitalizations and an increase in discharged patients.
“We are projecting that we are reaching a plateau on the number of hospitalizations,” Cuomo said, stating that the number of infected patients in the ICU saw its smallest increase since the outbreak began in New York. “This virus is very good at what it does. And it kills vulnerable people. We can’t stop that. The question is, ‘Are you saving everyone you can save?’ There the answer is yes. And I take some solace in that fact.”
To date, over 11,008 have died and 368,533 people have been infected with the virus nationwide, with New York accounting for about 50 percent of the total cases.
Despite the increase, Cuomo reassured residents on Tuesday that “social distancing is working” after previously extending the state-wide “pause” until April 29.
The projection models, he said, indicate that New York is near its apex of cases, and stressed that even if the number of cases decreases, hospitals and morgues across the state are still facing an enormous strain on their resources if residents don’t do their part and stay indoors.
“To the extent that we see a flattening or a possible plateau, that’s because of what we are doing and we have to keep doing it,” he said.“Social distancing is working. That’s why you see those numbers coming down.”
Cuomo said Tuesday that despite the ongoing situation, state officials are already starting to look at life after the pandemic, noting that in his personal opinion, “it’s going to come down to how good we are with testing.”
“You have 19 million people in the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “Just think of how many people you would need to be able to test and test quickly.”
The New York State Department of Health has already developed a COVID-19 antibody test, and state officials are now working with the FDA to get it approved and bring it to scale, Cuomo said.
The test would allow residents who already had the virus, or are immune to it, to return back to public life. New York will work with New Jersey and Connecticut to scale the “rapid 15 minutes test” for use across the region, he said, noting that New York has tested more individuals per capita than anywhere else worldwide.
“We need to start planning a restarting life. But we’re not there yet,” Cuomo said, noting states will need “a federal stimulus bill” to go back to normal life because “there’s no other way to do this.”
Discussing the impact of the economic shutdown, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that initial projections suggest that half a million New Yorkers “are either already out of work or soon will be.”He said it’s a dire situation that is “only getting worse.”
“The only comparison you could make for that is the Great Depression, which scares me to death to even say that,” de Blasio said.
But de Blasio did offer one piece of uplifting news as the city continues to fight the pandemic. On Tuesday, he said that doctors and nurses across the five boroughs may finally have enough supplies to combat the surge of new patients.
De Blasio said Tuesday that Elmhurst Hospital Center, a 545-bed public facility in Queens that lost 13 patients within 24 hours last month, is now “pretty much breaking even” on ventilators and other supplies. This is the first time the total number of patients on ventilators at the hospital did not increase, the mayor said.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, originally converted into a makeshift, 3,000-bed overflow hospital facility to alleviate overcrowding, will now be fully dedicated to COVID-19 patients, Cuomo said.
Central Park has also been transformed into a field hospital to help house COVID-19 patients, and construction has begun on a 350-bed facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens for patients without the virus.
The USNS Comfort—a naval ship docked in Manhattan with 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms, a medical laboratory, and over 1,000 officers—is now also treating more than 50 coronavirus patients after initially being tasked to help relieve hospitals of residents without the virus. On Tuesday, the Navy confirmed a crew member aboard the converted super tank has tested positive for the flu-like virus and is currently in isolation.
These steps, Cuomo said, have allowed hospitals across the state to unload their patient burden, share supplies, and provide a safe environment for patients who do not have the virus.
“This is not an act of God we’re looking at. It’s an act of what society actually does,” Cuomo said.