Here’s what you need to know:
- Deaths in New York and New Jersey hit one-day highs again.
- The virus is killing black and Latino New Yorkers at twice the rate of whites.
- New York City sues three stores it says overcharged for key items.
- Volunteers rushing to help New York hospitals are frustrated.
- Infections rise among workers and inmates at the city’s jails.
Deaths in New York and New Jersey hit one-day highs again.
Deaths from the coronavirus spiked to new highs in both New York and New Jersey for a second straight day on Wednesday, underscoring the outbreak’s continued grip on the region even as other figures showed that its impact was beginning to slow.
Another 779 people in New York State died of the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported, compared with 731 the day before. In New Jersey, 275 people died, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said, up from 232 on Tuesday. Connecticut, which reported 49 new deaths on Wednesday after reporting 71 the day before, was the one state in the region not to report a new one-day high.
More people in New York and New Jersey have died — a total of 7,772 — than in the rest of the United States combined.
Another grim distinction: New York State, with 149,316 confirmed cases, has had more people test positive for the virus than any country outside the United States, including Italy and Spain, the two other countries the pandemic has hit hardest.
But Mr. Cuomo said hospitalization figures continued to show the curve of infection flattening in the state. The number of virus patients in hospitals increased 3 percent since Tuesday, the fifth consecutive day of increases below 10 percent. By contrast, 25 percent increases have been typical in recent weeks.
“That death toll probably will be this high, or near this high or even higher for the next several days,” Mr. Cuomo said. But he added, “We are flattening the curve, thank God, thank God, thank God.”
In New Jersey, Mr. Murphy shared a statistic showing that the growth in hospitalizations had virtually stopped: The number of hospitalized virus patients grew by just nine people, to 7,026 from 7,017 on Tuesday.
To further limit the virus’s spread, Mr. Murphy said he was ordering customers and workers at grocery stores to wear face masks, and capping the number of shoppers a store could allow in at half its usual capacity.
“We are in the fight of our lives and we remain in the fight of our lives,” he said.
Mr. Murphy also ordered all nonessential construction in New Jersey to halt starting Friday, a move Mr. Cuomo made on March 27. Mr. Murphy also said New Jersey’s presidential primary would be postponed to July 7 from June 2.
The new deaths announced on Wednesday brought New York State’s total to 6,298 — more than double the number who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at the World Trade Center, Mr. Cuomo noted. He directed that all flags in the state be flown at half-staff, a step Mr. Murphy took on Sunday.
The virus is killing black and Latino New Yorkers at twice the rate of whites.
Black and Hispanic people in New York City are about twice as likely to die of the virus as white people are, according to preliminary data released on Wednesday by the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said early Wednesday that the disparities reflected economic inequity and differences in access to health care.
“There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” Mr. de Blasio said. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus, the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing, tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”
Mr. de Blasio and Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, stressed that some of the city’s Hispanic residents might have been discouraged from seeking medical care by the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has dominated the national discourse in recent years.
“The overlay of the anti-immigrant rhetoric across this country, I think, has real implications in the health of our community,” she said.
Mr. Cuomo said on Wednesday that the differences could be partly attributed to some groups having more untreated chronic health problems than others, making them more likely to die of the virus. But he also said that black and Hispanic people might also be disproportionately represented in the ranks of workers whose jobs on the front lines put them at risk.
“Are more public workers Latino and African-American?” he said. “Who doesn’t have a choice, frankly, but to go out there everyday and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to, in this case, the virus — whereas many other people who had the option just absented themselves.”
According to the city’s data, the death rates for different ethnic groups are:
Hispanics: 22 deaths per 100,000 people.
Blacks: 20 deaths per 100,000.
Whites: 10 deaths.
Asians: 8 deaths.
The fatality figures were consistent with data on confirmed virus cases released by the city last week. In the first month of the outbreak in the city — the epicenter of America’s virus crisis — many of the neighborhoods with the most confirmed cases were in areas with the lowest median incomes, the data showed.
Mr. de Blasio said that the city would redouble its efforts to support public hospitals, where many of the poorest residents turn for help and which have often been overwhelmed trying to care for virus patients.
He cited Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, where conditions in late March were described as “apocalyptic.”
The pattern in deaths is found throughout the state, and African-Americans have been disproportionately affected in other states as well.
In New York State outside the city, black people are more than twice as likely to die of the virus as white people, and Hispanic people are about 50 percent more likely to die than white people, according to figures released on Wednesday by the state Health Department.
In New Jersey, officials said on Wednesday that 24 percent of 729 people who had died of the virus and for whom racial demographic data was available were black. African-Americans make up 15 percent of the state’s population.
“The early data points are that we may be seeing what we’re seeing in the rest of the country,” Governor Murphy said. “The communities of color are paying a higher price.”
New York City sues three stores it says overcharged for key items.
Three New York City stores were sued on Wednesday for what officials said was their repeated overcharging for face masks, hand sanitizer, cough medicine and other products that are in short supply amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said that the consumer affairs department had issued the stores a collective 203 violations for drastically raising prices for such items and would be seeking a combined $101,500 against them.
The lawsuits filed on Wednesday — against Burns Pharmacy in Queens, Hong Kong Supermarket in Manhattan and Thomas Drugs in Manhattan — were the latest in the city’s effort to fight price gouging by merchants seeking to capitalize on the anxiety of desperate shoppers.
Employees at the three stores could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Since March 5, officials said, the city had received more than 7,200 price-gouging complaints and had issued more than 2,700 violations.
“Taking advantage of New Yorkers in a crisis is unacceptable,” Mr. Blasio said in the statement.
Businesses that are found to be overcharging consumers by 10 percent or more for items needed to prevent or limit the spread of, or to treat, the coronavirus will be issued a violation, officials said. Anyone who believes they have been overcharged should keep their receipts and file a complaint at nyc.gov/dcwp.
Volunteers rushing to help New York hospitals are frustrated.
When Mr. Cuomo called for medical workers around the country to come to New York last month and join the fight against the coronavirus, Bevin Strickland was ready to help.
Ms. Strickland, a former pediatric intensive care unit nurse in High Point, N.C., spent hours trying to submit her volunteer application online, and then she emailed city and state representatives. She never heard back.
Frustrated, she contacted Mount Sinai Queens hospital in New York City directly. A manager told her to use a private recruiting agency, which the hospital had used for years to bring in temporary staff.
Within two days, Ms. Strickland, 47, received her assignment. She started this week in the hospital’s emergency department, making about $3,800 a week for three 12-hour shifts instead of doing it free, as she had initially wanted.
“I don’t feel like I should be walking out of this scenario with any money,” said Ms. Strickland, a doctoral student in nurse anesthesia. “It feels wrong. I don’t want the hospital paying the recruiter for me.”
As of Wednesday, more than 90,000 retired and active health care workers had signed up online to volunteer at the epicenter of the pandemic, including 25,000 from outside New York, the governor’s office said.
Putting them to work, however, has been a different story.
Infections rise among workers and inmates at the city’s jails.
More than half of the inmates in New York City’s jails had been quarantined amid the coronavirus outbreak as of Wednesday, correction officials said, and 287 inmates, 441 staff members and 75 health care workers had been infected with the virus.
Seven staff members and one detainee have died of the virus and more than 10 percent of correction officers were in self-quarantine, officials said.
Soon after the virus was detected in the city’s jails, officials moved to release hundreds of inmates in hopes of slowing the outbreak among those held in the lockups as well as those who work in them.
Inmates targeted for release included those who were being held on technical parole violations, were accused of minor crimes, were serving a year or less after being convicted, were older or who had pre-existing health problems.
Nearly 1,600 inmates had been released from the Rikers Island complex and the city’s other jails as a result of the outbreak by Wednesday, officials said.
A social-distancing dispute led to a homicide, officials said.
On March 28, around the time the coronavirus flooded hospitals across New York City with desperately ill people, an 86-year-old woman with dementia lost her bearings and started wandering the emergency room at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn.
The woman, Janie Marshall, grabbed onto another patient’s IV pole to regain her balance and orient herself, the police said.
The patient, Cassandra Lundy, 32, had apparently become irate that Ms. Marshall had breached the six feet of space recommended to help prevent the virus’s spread, law enforcement officials said. Ms. Lundy shoved Ms. Marshall, knocking her to the floor.
Ms. Marshall struck her head and died three hours later.
Ms. Marshall’s death underscored how hospital officials are struggling to keep order in health care facilities overrun by the pandemic, as crowding generates a new level of fear and anxiety.
Initially, hospital officials handed Ms. Lundy a summons for disorderly conduct. But a week later, after the medical examiner ruled Ms. Marshall’s death a homicide, the police charged Ms. Lundy with manslaughter and assault.
“How do you put your hands on a 86-year-old woman?” said Ms. Marshall’s grandniece, Antoinette Leonard Jean Charles. “I also understand the fear level every person in New York has. There is a notion of every man for themselves. But attacking an elderly person? That went too far.”
A hospital transferred ventilated patients over oxygen concerns.
A Queens hospital, concerned about the capacity of its oxygen system, moved 17 virus patients who were on ventilators to other hospitals late Tuesday, officials said.
It was the first known instance of patients on ventilators in New York City being moved because of oxygen-supply concerns amid the pandemic.
The transfers, from the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center to an Albany hospital, a Navy hospital ship and a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Manhattan, were made using helicopters and ambulances and overseen by state and city officials.
Seven patients from Flushing Hospital Medical Center, part of the same hospital network, were also transferred late Tuesday because of bed capacity, said Michael Hinck, a spokesman for both the institutions.
At the Jamaica hospital, the large number of patients requiring oxygen caused concerns about the oxygen system.
“There is a high volume of patients that are oxygen-dependent and to balance that load, there are instances where we need to transfer patients for their safety,” Mr. Hinck said.
Ten of the patients were sent to the hospital ship, the U.S.N.S. Comfort, five to the Albany Medical Center and two to the Manhattan campus of the New York Harbor Healthcare System, a city official said.
Two patients who were transferred out the Flushing hospital also went to the Albany hospital, the official said; at least some of the others were taken to the Comfort.
Several other New York Hospitals, including Lenox Hill and NYU-Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, have had oxygen-supply problems in recent days because of the high number of virus patients who have required oxygen. The problems did not require patient transfers.
Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Nick Corasaniti, Maria Cramer, J. David Goodman, Michael Gold, Matthew Haag, Nicole Hong, Jeffery C. Mays, Jesse McKinley, Andy Newman, Jan Ransom, William K. Rashbaum, Edgar Sandoval and Matt Stevens. Alain Delaquérière contributed research.