ALBANY – The number of New Yorkers affected by the COVID-19 virus continues to rise, but the state is beginning to think about how to restart a cold economy when the crisis is past.
Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday said he is talking with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut to create a tri-state plan for getting people back to work once the public health emergency has passed.
Currently, New York continues to appear it has either reached the peak or is nearly at the peak of expected cases. There are now 138,836 confirmed cases, and the number of dead rose by the biggest one day margin yet, with 731 new fatalities taking the total number of victims from 4,758 to 5,489.
Cuomo said that, with the addition of the Javits Center and the USN Comfort, which will now be COVID-only facilities staffed by U.S. military personnel, there are “more than enough beds” to meet the need.
“DoD (the Department of Defense) has been fantastic,” he said. “This has been a really difficult undertaking.”
He also thanked the president for his quick response to his request to make the Comfort a COVID facility. The ship's capacity will be reduced from 1,000 to 500 beds to accommodate the increased isolation needed for treating COVID-19.
Staffing and equipment are still of concern, and he said 7,000 new staffers have been hired from the pool of retirees and volunteers from out of state. He said the Executive Order he promised to compel hospitals around the state to identify 20% of their unused supplies and make that available for use in other hospitals will be signed today.
Testing, Cuomo said, will, in his opinion, be the key to answer the question of when the economy can be restarted.
“This isn't a switch you can just flip,” he said.
The governor said the state has faster tests to diagnose the illness, which need to be brought to scale. And he called on companies interested in partnering to make the test which will confirm anti-bodies to the virus, meaning someone is safe to go back to work or school, to contact the Empire State Development Corporation. He said the state will invest in those companies to get those tests available as soon as they get approval from the FDA.
“There are 19 million people in this state,” Cuomo said. “Right now we have the capacity to test 50,000.”
He said he was sending a letter to the state's Congressional representatives today, explaining the state's financial needs and asking them to address it in the federal legislation. Without help from the federal government, he said the state does not have the funds to restart the economy.”
Cuomo then asked the people of New York to continue to be patient, and to maintain social distancing.
“It's been 37 days,” he said. “I know it's been frustrating. But again, it's only been 37 days. This is like Groundhog Day, in this bizarre reality we're in. But our behavior affects the number of cases. We are changing the curve. If we don't do what we're doing, that curve changes. Social distancing is working. We have to keep doing it. It is about 'we', not about 'me.'”