ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed mixed emotions during his coronavirus pandemic media briefing on Wednesday.
On the one hand, the governor was happy to report that hospitalizations continue to decrease, but on the other he said New York state had a single-day high of 779 deaths over the last 24 hours. That’s up 48 from the previous high set Tuesday.
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He emphasized the science behind hospitalization-to-death ratio, echoing earlier analysis by White House task force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said just because the rate of hospitalizations falls it doesn’t mean deaths will immediately fall. Cuomo explained why.
“The longer you are on a ventilator, the less likely you will come off the ventilator,” Cuomo said, referring to some patients who have been forced to use the device for, in many cases, more than a week. “The quote-unquote lagging indicator between hospitalizations and deaths — the hospitalizations can start to drop, the deaths actually increase because the people who have been in the hospital for 11 days, 14 days, 17 days pass away. That’s what we are seeing.
“This vicious predator of a virus targeted from Day 1. The virus attacked the vulnerable. It attacked the weak. It is our job as a society to protect those vulnerable,” he added. “And that is what this has always been about from Day 1, and it still is about. Be responsible, not just for yourself, but to protect the vulnerable. Be responsible, because the life you risk might not be your own. Those [healthcare workers] who walk into an emergency room every day and put themselves at peril, don’t make their situations worse. Don’t infect yourself or infect someone else so their situation becomes more dangerous.”
To put in perspective how lethal COVID-19 has been and will continue to be for a while, the governor compared it to the 9/11 terror attacks, saying 2,753 people died on that day compared to 6,268 and counting in the state since outbreak started. He said all flags will be flown at half staff going forward to remember those who have died.
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Cuomo wasn’t all doom and gloom. He opened his press conference by stating unequivocally that social distancing guidelines are working to keep the virus from spreading further.
“What we have done and what are doing is actually working and making a difference,” he said. “That curve is flattening because we are flattening the curve by what we are doing. If we stop what we are doing, you will see that curve change. That curve is purely a function of what we do day in and day out.”
He said the three-day average for hospitalizations is down, adding the larger systems are releasing more people than are coming in.
“We have more capacity in the hospital system than ever before, so we’ve had more capacity in that system to absorb more people. … If the hospitalization rate keeps decreasing the way it is now, then the system should stabilize over these next couple of weeks, which will minimize the need for overflow on the system that we have built in at Javits and the USNS Comfort. That’s if we continue what we are doing,” Cuomo said.
“It’s not a time to get complacent. It’s not a time to do anything different than we have been doing. Remember what happened in Italy, when the entire healthcare system became overrun. So we have to remain diligent and disciplined going forward,” he added.
As for when the state can reopen for business and life can begin to get back to normal, Cuomo cautioned that things may never be as normal as they were before the virus landed on the shores of the United States.
“I don’t think it’s about going back. I don’t think it’s ever about going back. I think the question is always about going forward, and that’s what we have to deal with here. It’s about learning from what we have experienced and it’s about growing and it’s about moving forward,” the governor said. “I don’t think we return to normal. I don’t think we return to yesterday. I think If we are smart we achieve a new normal, the way we are understanding a new normal when it comes to the economy and a new normal when it comes to the environment. … Now we understand a new normal in terms of health and public health. … We have to learn what it means, ‘global pandemic.’ How small the world has actually gotten. Someone sneezes in Asia today, you catch a cold tomorrow.”
Cuomo spoke a bit on the racial disparity among coronavirus cases, wondering aloud why those economically disadvantaged appear to be impacted more.
“Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price? Let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s do the research and learn from this moment. Let’s learn from these moments and let’s do it now,” the governor said. “We are going to do more testing in minority communities, but not just testing for the virus. Let’s actually get research and data that can inform us as to why we are having more people in minority communities, more people in certain neighborhoods, why do they have higher rates of infection.”
The governor announced that an additional $600 payment will be made to all residents who filed for unemployment, and that the federal government will reimburse the state.
Cuomo also said the state will be extending unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks, bringing the total to 39 weeks.
As for voting in upcoming elections, Cuomo called what he has seen in other states, long lines of people risking getting sick just so they can do their duty as citizens, as “nonsensical,” adding, all New Yorkers can vote absentee on June 23 for the primaries.