New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday extended his “stay-at-home” order to May 15, saying that the strict measures are still necessary to continue to “bend the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic as the state prepares for the “gradual process” of reopening the economy.
“This is going to be a moment of transformation for society, and we paid a very high price for it,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany, stating that New York has “controlled the beast.” “There are lessons that we must learn from this. Because we do need to do things differently, or we can do things differently, and we can do things better.”
Overnight, 606 people across the state died from the coronavirus, the lowest 24-hour death toll in the last 10 days, Cuomo said. To date, the state has seen 214,832 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 14,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Despite the “devastating death toll,” Cuomo said New York is in control of the virus as the rate of hospitalizations has decreased and the number of ICU admissions has taken a significant dip. He said the rate of infection in New York is now at 0.9 percent based on how many people get infected by a patient with COVID-19—0.6 percent higher than Wuhan.
“We’ve controlled the beast. We brought the rate of spread down,” Cuomo said.
To continue to curtail the spread of the virus and ensure that New York’s medical system is not overwhelmed by patients, Cuomo said Thursday that he would extend the state’s “pause” until May 15. The pause will be “in coordination with other states” as officials begin the slow, gradual process of reopening the economy.
“What happens after then? I don’t know. We will see depending on what the data shows,” Cuomo said, stating his office is committed to not opening up the state too quickly. “Don’t let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability. Don’t lose the progress that you have made.”
Cuomo said that after another month of “closed-down policies,” state officials will start determining what other businesses are essential, or what changes can be made in order to reopen without risking a resurgence of the virus.
First, the governor said that officials will begin to expand the definition of “essential” and include businesses that are able to demonstrate their ability to operate safely. “What changes can they make in their business to make them safer,” Cuomo said, adding that officials will start to ask “how essential is that business service, you have to start somewhere right.”
While residents will still have to grapple with a “new normal” until there is a vaccine, Cuomo said his office is focusing on “aggressive” antibody and diagnostic testing.
The Empire State, which has been most affected by the virus, has already developed a COVID-19 antibody test and state officials are working with the FDA to get it approved. Cuomo said this week that New York will begin administering 2,000 antibody tests daily with a new finger prick test.
Cuomo said on Thursday that while New York has performed more than half a million tests to date—which is more than California, Florida, and Michigan combined—it is not nearly enough to meet the needs of the state’s 19 million residents.
“We’ve done 500,000 tests in 30 days,” Cuomo said. “But when you think of 500,000 tests in one month and then you compare it to the fact that you have 19 million people in this state, you have 9 million workers, the 500,000 doesn’t sound so big, right?”
At the current rate, he said, the country cannot begin phase two of reopening the country, and he called on the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to make more tests because the private sector cannot make enough to meet the demand.
Cuomo also addressed President Donald Trump’s Wednesday assertion that New York City may be inflating its COVID-19 death toll after city health officials released new data that added more than 3,000 fatalities for people who have likely died from coronavirus without an official diagnosis. The latest surge in New York City has increased the overall death toll in the United States by 17 percent.
“If you look at it, that is it,” Trump said during a White House press conference, suggesting city health officials are stating that “rather than a heart attack, they say heart attack caused by” COVID-19. “Everything we have is documented and reported great. What they are doing is just in case—that is OK. We have more cases because we do more reporting.”
Cuomo, who earlier this week sparred with Trump over his assertion he had “total authority,” stated he didn’t understand why the president was accusing New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, of “padding” its death toll with the added “probable” deaths related to the virus.
“Why would New York City want to inflate a death toll?! It is more bizarre than usual [to say] that anyone would want to do that,” Cuomo said, adding that New York State will also soon include a “probable category” in its death count to accurately record COVID-19 deaths.