ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that all the data provided by hospitals and nursing homes around the state indicate that the COVID-19 virus plateau is real, and the numbers are finally dropping.
“The good news is that the number of new hospitalizations is down,” he said. “Intubations are down. That's very good news. New hospitalizations total 1,915. That's similar to the numbers we saw in late March. But it's high. If it wasn't for the relative context, this would be devastating.”
Another 540 people have died since Friday, 36 of them in nursing homes.
The governor used the daily press conference to expand on his explanation of testing, saying a conversation with his daughter made him realize he still may not be communicating clearly enough.
The tension, he explained, is between the need to re-open the state, and the need to control the rate of infection. At its worst, one New Yorker with coronavirus was infecting 1.4 people – that, Cuomo said, is an outbreak epidemic. That rate is now down to just less than one to one – 1 to .9. That, he said, is stable. But it offers very little room for error.
“At a 1 to 1.2 infection rate,” he said, “hospitalization spikes again.”
Testing, Cuomo said, is the key to controlling the infection rate. There have to be enough tests to meet the need. The state has nowhere near the capacity and is not able, he said, to build that capacity without federal help. He explained there are about 30 private companies that manufacture the tests, and each of their tests uses only their own specific equipment and chemicals, known as re-agents. He said they are not interchangeable, which further limits the ability to build a testing capacity to scale.
“New York asked the top fifty producing labs in the state how they could double their output,” he said. “The answer was, 'we can't get the re-agents.'”
The federal government, Cuomo pointed out, regulates that distribution.
“I'm not asking the federal government to do more than they need to,” he said. “You have to fund us to do the function you want us to do. The GOP doctrine used to be limited government and states' rights.”
Even with the tests, Cuomo said it would take a staff of “thousands” of tracers to investigate each confirmed positive case's contacts.
Cuomo, after hitting back at a tweet from the president on Friday, Saturday said the partisanship all over the country is destructive.
“Emotion is as high as I can recall,” he said. “We're angry. We're frustrated.”
He noted “we've never been here before.”
“There is no time for politics. We cannot go there. If you have partisan division, it's going to make it worse. We're called the United States. The unity is key.”
Cuomo said the fifty state solution to reopening will present challenges, but he also said regional realities in the state will be considered as New York plans its own phased reopening, acknowledging there are different needs in different areas. But he said need has to be weighed against possibile unintended consequences.
“We're barely stabilizing our public health system now,” he said. “Let's not get ahead of ourselves.”
The federal government, he said, has sent a milllion and a half cloth masks to New York, which will be distributed to the public to help in compliance with the new mandate to wear masks when in public places where social distancing can't be maintained.
Governor Cuomo was asked why he doesn't wear a mask at his press briefings. “When I'm in public, walking the dog, when I might get near someone, I am wearing a mask. In my back yard, alone? No mask. Here, there's no possibility that we'll violate the guidelines. This is a small inconvence that has a tremendous benefit.”
The state, he announced, will begin early release for prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes who are over 55 and are already scheduled for release in 90 days. He also announced an Executive Order that will allow couples to get marriage licenses on line and give town clerks permission to perform marriages remotely.