NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are new questions about the battle against the coronavirus in New York state.

Wednesday night, deaths in New York State grew to 20,597 — an increase of almost 1,000 from Tuesday’s number. The governor’s office has not said what caused the increase or when those deaths happened.

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Why are hundreds of people being hospitalized every day despite drastic measures to tame the disease?

New York crunched the numbers, and the results surprised the governor.

A survey meant to give the state a demographic snapshot of recently hospitalized patients has only deepened the medical mystery that is coronavirus.

“With everything we’ve done – closed schools, closed businesses, everybody shelter at home, all the precautions about where a mask, where gloves, etc. – you still had 600 new cases that walked in the door yesterday,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Where are those new cases still coming from, because we’ve done everything we have to close down? How are you still generating 600 new cases every day?”

In trying to answer why patients keep being brought in and what their backgrounds are, a stunning finding jumped out. That shocking detail: Of all the places patients come from, like nursing homes and so on, most – 66% – were said to be social distancing at home.

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The three day survey looked at 113 hospitals, getting back more than 1,200 responses.

Not only does the results suggest they were not in subways, in taxis, for-hire vehicles, or otherwise on public, it finds that they left their houses not at all.


“Eighty four percent were at home, literally. Were they working? No. They were retired or they were unemployed,” Cuomo said.

When you take away the percentages of those not working or retired you are left with just 17%, including essential workers in close contact with the public.

“We were thinking maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work. That these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers. That’s not the case, and they were predominantly at home,” Cuomo said.

He said the finding shows the importance of following basic precautions.

“It reinforces what we’ve been saying, which is much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself. Everything is closed down, government has done everything it could, society has done everything it could, now it’s up to you,” said Cuomo. “Are you doing the mask? Are you using the hand sanitizer? If you have younger people who are visiting you and may be out there and may be less diligent with the social distancing, are you staying away from older people?”

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez and other medical experts told CBS2’s Dave Carlin they’d like to learn more about the specific questions that were asked and are eager for more details to make sense of this.

“We have to look at how the survey was done,” Gomez said. “Clearly somewhere in that household had some kind of contact and we suppose in a way they didn’t realize.”

The findings indicate newly hospitalized patients were not working or traveling, mainly from downstate and a vast majority of them minority and older and non-essential  workers.

Most of the new cases originated downstate – including 21% in Manhattan, 18% on Long Island, 13% in Brooklyn, 13% in Queens and 11% in Westchester and Rockland counties.

The governor said the new patients were disproportionally African American or Latino and 96% suffered from co-morbidities.

There is now a push for enhanced research, new surveys that yield results less speculative.

New York’s numbers have continued a downward trend, but former CDC director Tom Frieden warned the rest of the nation about dropping its guard, saying, “As bad as this has been, it’s just the beginning.”

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Watch Dick Brennan’s report

Keeping medical supplies stocked is a key ingredient for Cuomo’s plan to fight COVID going forward.

“This will happen again. Some people say this virus comes back in the fall or the winter,” the governor said.

The big question is, will we be ready for round two?

“What do you think the likelihood is of a second wave?” CBS2’s Dick Brennan asked Cure Urgent Care founder Dr. Jake Deutch.

“I think it’s pretty much inevitable,” Deutch said.

He says the planning starts now for the fall and winter.

“Do we have the capacity at the hospitals? Are we capable of obtaining more PPE and protecting the people that need to treat these second wave of patients?” he said.

Deutch also says getting testing up to speed is crucial.

And what about the people looking to stay healthy? He says make some additions to your medicine cabinet.

“Thermometers, I know a lot of people were unable to obtain thermometers just a couple of weeks ago, and that’s an easy solution in order to identify illness. Another option is a pulse oximiter, the little devices over your finger to measure your oxygen level,” Deutch said.

He says the medical lessons we’ve learned from the first wave will be key to fighting a second.

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Regarding the economy, Cuomo mentioned a hot spot centered near a greenhouse farm in Madison and Oneida counties, where dozens of employees have been infected. He said it should serve as a warning about large gatherings.

“It’s not about poultry, it’s not about meat, it’s not about vegetables. It’s when you run a facility with a large number of workers in a dense environment,” he said.

The governor reiterated businesses that are “most essential and pose the lowest risk” will reopen first.

He also said former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will lead a commission that looks into how New Yorkers can better use technology, focusing on telehealth, remote learning and broadband.

“The solutions that we have to come up with have to help the people most in need. People are in different situations throughout the state, and we need to consider all of them and not pick one or the other,” Schmidt said. “So the intent is to be very inclusive and make this thing better.”

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Cuomo wrapped up his press conference with a nod to National Nurses Day.

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“When the pressure is on in our lives, you wind up seeing the best and the worst in people, and heroes rise to the occasion,” he said. “That’s what we saw here in the state of New York. Our frontline health care workers were just extraordinary.”