ALBANY - The daily death toll in New York State continues to be devastating – Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that 758 people died in the past 24 hours. However, despite that high rate, it has been holding steady since about a week ago.
The state total of people lost to the COVID-19 virus now stands at 9,385.
The good news, despite what Cuomo called “terrible news,” is that the rate of hospitalization is down again. The daily rate dropped to its lowest level since hospitalizations began to be counted on March 16.
However, later in the press conference, he specifically addressed upstate New York.
“The first wave was New York City,” he said, explaining that was because of its dense population. “But I think you'll see it more in suburban and rural areas, particularly in super spreader situations. One person goes to a gathering with 300 people. One gathering, and a lot of people can get infected.”
The governor said the surge and flex policy he instituted, sharing equipment and staff among all the state's hospitals, “works both ways.” He indicated the equipment shortage that challenged downstate hospitals has eased, making resources available around the rest of the state as needed.
“We are watching the movement of the virus, and we have not seen a significant uptick,” Cuomo said. “We jump on clusters when we see them.”
Cuomo also sent personal thanks to the Pathways Rehabilitation and Nursing Home in Schenectady County, which volunteered, unasked, to sent 35 ventilators downstate at the worst of the crisis.
“For me, when I heard that news,” he said, “something inside me said 'we're going to be okay.' There is an inherent goodness in people that will rise to the occasion.”
Cuomo said the state returned the ventilators and he went there Sunday morning to offer his personal thanks.
“They brought me hope and inspiration when I really needed it.”
Governor Cuomo said the question of reopening is still one he can't answer, and will not be able to answer until there is a plan that he can coordinate with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut.
He said he is signing an Executive Order expanding the number of people eligible to administer antibody tests, which he says are essential to determine when the state can safely reopen without risking a second wave of infections.
Cuomo also announced he will sign an Executive Order requiring employers to give essential workers free cloth or surgical masks for use when they deal with the public.
He called on Congress to pass another relief bill that actually offers relief to the states most affected. Cuomo pointed to a Kaiser Health study that showed Nebraska and Montana are getting $300,000 per COVID patient, while New York gets $12,000. He said the National Governors' Association has issued a bipartisan statement calling for $500 billion in aid to states and he called for a repeal of the federal SALT tax, which capped state and local income tax deductions and was seen by Democrats as targeting blue states.
The press conference also covered what the administration called “a disconnect” between reports of supply shortages from health care workers on the front lines, while hospital administrators, in daily phone calls, report having everything they need. The state will now ask administrators if they are still operating under CDC crisis conservation guidelines, which severely limit access to PPE, and if so, to explain why.
Trials of COVID-19 treatments are expected to have results by next week, the governor said. And he felt that having state prisons report their COVID-19 numbers is “a good idea.” He also promised to talk to Empire State Development about the state's drive-in theaters, which would like to be considered essential businesses.
The final question asked what he intends to do if he contracts the virus himself.
“I'll do this,” Cuomo said, waving at the press, “from home.”