Coronavirus in New York: Latest Updates

Workers set up a field hospital in front of Mount Sinai West Hospital inside Central Park on March 29, 2020 in New York City. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

As of Sunday night, there have been at least 59,568 confirmed cases of the coronavirus discovered in the state, including more than 33,700 in New York City. At least 1,126 people with COVID-19 have died in the state, which has the largest number — around 42 percent — of confirmed cases in the U.S.

Nationwide, more than 141,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. At least 2,469 people have died from the virus in the country, where 20 states have confirmed more than 1,000 cases. COVID-19 has killed nearly 33,000 worldwide.

As more widespread testing is done, the full scope and scale of the New York (and national) outbreak becomes more clear, including how much the virus continues to spread. Below is what we know about the reported cases and consequences in New York thus far.

As of Sunday night, health officials have confirmed at least:

  • 59,568 total cases in New York State
  • 1,126 deaths from the coronavirus in the state — up 398 from Saturday
  • 33,500 cases in New York City, including 776 deaths
  • 8,500 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, including 2,037 in intensive care
  • 13,386 cases in New Jersey, with 161 deaths
  • 1,993 cases in Connecticut, with 34 deaths

The above counts are of laboratory-tested and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and should not be mistaken for the actual number of people who have or have had the coronavirus in the region. Similarly, updates to the totals are not necessarily new infections — they are newly discovered infections.

Sunday, March 29

A city of sirens

Emergency calls have overwhelmed New York City’s 911 system as the coronavirus crisis continues to inundate hospitals and the first responders whose ambulance sirens have become a constant background sound throughout the city, day and night. More than 7,000 calls were fielded by 911 dispatchers last Thursday, one of three days last week that set call volume records.

The New York Times reported Saturday that according to paramedics and city officials, some would-be patients are already being left at home because the city’s health system is not able to treat everyone — including those deemed well-enough to not need emergency care, too vulnerable to risk exposing to coronavirus contagion at emergency rooms, or too ill to attempt to save. The calls are for both those infected with the coronavirus and those with otherwise ordinary health emergencies:

One New York City paramedic described responding to a suicide attempt of a woman who had drank a liter of vodka after her cancer treatments had been delayed, in part because hospitals were clearing their beds for coronavirus patients. Another paramedic said she responded to so many cardiac arrests in one shift that the battery on her defibrillator died.

The severity of coronavirus-related calls has also evolved, and not in a good direction, again per the Times:

Three weeks ago, the paramedics said, most coronavirus calls were for respiratory distress or fever. Now the same types of patients, after having been sent home from the hospital, are experiencing organ failure and cardiac arrest. “We’re getting them at the point where they’re starting to decompensate,” said the Brooklyn paramedic, who is employed by the Fire Department. “The way that it wreaks havoc in the body is almost flying in the face of everything that we know.”

There are also ongoing, seemingly universal complaints about a lack of PPE for health care workers — including first responders. As of Friday, 206 members of the FDNY had tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Sunday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 161 New Yorkers had died in the city from the coronavirus over the course of the last 24 hours, and that the city was working to expand the number of health care workers handling the paramedic overload. On Sunday morning, de Blasio said that the city had about a week’s worth of medical supplies, and would soon need “at least several hundred more ventilators very quickly.” In the evening, de Blasio said that 1,400 ventilators had been distributed to city hospitals — but that an estimated 15,000 would ultimately be needed.

A pause for applause

On Friday evening at 7 p.m., many New Yorkers participated in a coordinated attempt to applaud the city’s health care workers:

It happened again on Saturday night:

Field hospital goes up in Central Park

A 68-bed field hospital is being constructed in Central Park across from Mount Sinai West at 5th Avenue and 99th Street in Manhattan. The hospital is being built by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization run by the son of the late televangelist Billy Graham. NY1 reports that the organization constructed a similar hospital in northern Italy earlier this month:

Dr. Elliott Tenpenny, the team leader of this field operation, tells NY1 state officials approved the plan after Mount Sinai Hospital reached out for assistance. The field hospital will be composed of a respiratory care unit with ICU capability. Dr. Tenpenny said highly trained doctors and nurses with experience in infectious diseases will be deployed on a rotating basis.

The hospital is expected to be operational by Tuesday morning.

NYC nurse shares photo of COVID-19 fatalities

A nurse has shared a photograph, seen in the embedded tweet below, which was taken inside a refrigerated truck outside an unnamed New York City hospital showing bodybags containing people who died from complications of the coronavirus. The unidentified nurse told Buzzfeed News’ Miriam Elder that he took the photo “to show to people … the ghastly reality of what we deal with and where some of us have ended up already.” The nurse also told Elder a heartbreaking story about one of the victims in the photograph, whose hand he had held as she died on Saturday night:

“I never had the patience to sit with somebody I’d just met until they took their last breath. But I really liked this lady’s cardigan and pajamas so I decided to stay and get to know her a little,” he said over text message. “Her hair was elegantly done with a sharp, meticulous clip and casually pulled up with a bandana that matched her house clothes. Perhaps if she’d covered her face with it instead, she wouldn’t have ended up here in the first place. But she didn’t die alone.”

One of the many unique horrors of the coronavirus is that its victims are frequently forced to die alone, isolated from relatives and friends, because of its high infection rate. The nurse’s patient was 71 and otherwise healthy. He described how she gasped for air as she died. He said she had tested positive about a week ago and was sent home, only to return on Saturday with shortness of breath. She asked not to be intubated, and died overnight.

Since health care workers are not permitted to photograph patients, very few images from the real front lines of New York’s COVID-19 epidemic have been made public — though doctors and nurses working in New York City-area hospitals have been sharing their experiences.

Rhode Island stops singling out New York drivers — will now target all out-of-state residents

Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo has revised her executive order targeting motorists with New York State license plates, but it’s not exactly a reprieve. On Friday, Raimondo ordered Rhode Island State Police to pull over drivers with New York plates and order them to self quarantine for 14 days, and sent police and national guard members to the coastal community homes of New York residents with a similar message. The controversial policy was intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the state as New York residents flee the largest known outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

The move angered Governor Cuomo, who threatened to file a lawsuit against the state. He then said on Sunday that he had spoken with Governor Raimondo about the targeting, commenting that, “I don’t think the order was called for, I don’t believe it was legal, I don’t believe it was neighborly — I understand the point, but I thought there were different ways to do it, and the governor of Rhode Island was very receptive.”

Raimondo didn’t really back off, however. Instead she simply expanded the order to apply to all out-of-state residents traveling to Rhode Island, by any means, for any reason other than for work. She also made it clear she was annoyed with Cuomo’s reaction and attempt, on Sunday, to take credit for the policy change.

Cuomo extends stay-at-home order until at least April 15

Governor Cuomo announced on Sunday that he was extending his order for all nonessential workers to stay at home until at least April 15.

Trump abandons NYC quarantine idea, but CDC issues domestic travel advisory

President Trump’s ill-advised thought balloon about ordering a quarantine of the New York City area imploded on Saturday after he faced universal pushback on the idea from his entire coronavirus task force as well as the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Instead, Trump directed the CDC to advise against domestic travel from the states — which has no legal weight.

Cuomo, who had dismissed the quarantine idea on Saturday, framed the CDC advisory on Sunday as an affirmation of what he had already ordered. “This is not a lockdown, it is a travel advisory to be implemented by the states … It’s nothing that we haven’t been doing. Nonessential people should stay at home, so it’s totally consistent with everything we’ve been doing.”

Saturday, March 28

Trump floats tri-state quarantine, Cuomo: ‘I don’t even know what that means’

President Trump on Saturday claimed that he was considering a “short term, two week quarantine” of New York, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut — restricting movement out of those “hot spots” in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Speaking with reporters, the president said that order may come as early as Saturday. He also said he had just spoken with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo later made it clear he had no idea what Trump was talking about after being asked by reporters about the possible order during his daily coronavirus briefing. “I don’t even know what that means,” Cuomo responded, indicating the two did not discuss such a measure in their conversation.

“I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable, and from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing. … I don’t like the sound of it,” Cuomo added.

Here are Trump’s comments:

Which he later reiterated in a tweet:

No, Trump probably doesn’t have the legal authority to do that

Here is what NBC News’s Pete Williams explained earlier this month on the legality of a national quarantine order:

Broadly speaking, the CDC has the power to detain people suspected of having a communicable disease, without getting approval from state and local officials. It comes under the public health laws that allow the federal government to impose restrictions either on people coming into the country or traveling from one state to another. … However, that authority is rarely used, and when it has been invoked, it was directed at individuals and small groups.

[The federal government’s quarantine] authority is limited to restricting the movement of anyone who “is reasonably believed to be infected with a quarantinable communicable disease.” It’s not at all certain how that would apply to large groups of people. Under the law, there is no explicit statutory authority for a blanket federal interstate quarantine, only for the isolation of individual people deemed infected.

Then again, as we’ve seen countless times from during the Trump presidency, lack of legal precedent or authority have rarely stopped the president from threatening or trying to expand his executive power — and as Williams points out, a federal court may defer to the president’s power in the time of a crisis.

11 percent of NYPD officers out sick; 500 department employees have COVID-19, a detective has died

Some 4,000 NYPD employees were out sick on Friday, department officials reported — roughly 11 percent of the workforce. 500 department employees have tested positive, including 442 officers and 70 civilians. and three have died, including a detective and 23-year-veteran assigned to the 23rd precinct in Harlem — the first NYPD officer to die from the virus; a civilian employee and seven-year-veteran named Giacomina Barr-Brown; and a police headquarters custodian named Dennis Dickson.

How do the city’s cases (and testing) break down along socio-economic lines?

TPM’s Josh Marshall flags a map of New York City’s positive test percentages:

“It’s not a helpful map,” goes on to acknowledge, “the city government is being very stingy with data. Without knowing where the most tests are being taken, who knows [if the wealthier parts of the cities are simply performing more]. A valuable map would show numbers relative to population. And then layered on with intensity of testing.”

“I suspect it’s a combination of the two hypotheses I described. But both turn on wealth, power and race in the city.”

Friday, March 27

Public schools closed until April 14, at least

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday extended the closure of New York public schools by two weeks. Schools will now be closed at least until April 14, at which point the order will be reevaluated. Cuomo had previously closed schools until April 1. “I don’t do this joyfully, but I think if you look at where we are and the number of cases increasing, it only makes sense,” Cuomo said.

New York City schools were already planned to be closed at least until April 20. On Thursday, Mayor Bill De Blasio said he still hopes to open schools by the 20th, but acknowledged “that’s going to be a big challenge.”

States issue orders for travelers from New York

Several states on Thursday issued new rules for travelers arriving from New York and surrounding areas. Visitors to Texas, Florida, and Maryland who have previously been in the New York tristate area have been ordered by the governors of those states to self-isolate for 14 days. Rhode Island has extended a similar order to those coming from New York.

Enforcement won’t be easy. In Texas, where the order only applies to those arriving by air, visitors will be required to tell officials where they will be quarantining. Troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety will then follow up to ensure the traveler is complying. Rhode Island is stationing members of the National Guard at bus stations, where those arriving from New York will be required to provide ID and contract information. Those traveling in a car with a New York license plate will be pulled over by Rhode Island state police and required to reveal where they’re staying and provide contact information.

Trump doubts New York’s need for ventilators

President Trump on Thursday night said he didn’t believe claims from Governor Andrew Cuomo that New York will need 30,000 ventilators to cope with the coming crush of coronavirus cases. “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have 2 ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told Good Morning America on Friday that Trump is “not looking at the facts of the astronomical growth of this crisis.”

Thursday, March 26

Cuomo and de Blasio rip stimulus bill, Schumer defends it

Even before the $2 trillion federal stimulus bill cleared the Senate Wednesday night, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio lodged their complaints. Cuomo said the bill would be “terrible for the state of New York,” and de Blasio called the deal “immoral” for allocating only $1 billion to the city hit hardest by the outbreak.

In his Thursday morning press conference, Cuomo complained that the stimulus ear marks $5 billion for New York’s COVID-19 response. “It does absolutely nothing for us in terms of lost revenue for the state,” he said. The stimulus, which he called “irresponsible” and “reckless,” “simply failed to address the governmental need.”

Senator Chuck Schumer sees things differently. The stimulus is “very, very good for New York.” When all the benefits come through, Schumer said, the bill will provide $100 billion in relief for the state.

Both the state and New York City are projecting large revenue decreases. State revenue could fall by as much as $15 billion, while de Blasio has asked city agencies to identify at least $1.3 billion that could be cut from the city budget due to lost revenue.

A nurse dies at Mount Sinai West

Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse died at what was formerly known as Roosevelt Hospital; workers there state that there the facility has not provided them with enough personal protective equipment, or PPE.

On Thursday, Dr. Peter Shearer, the chief medical officer at Mount Sinai in Brooklyn, spoke with New York, describing the intensity of the crisis his hospital is dealing with: “I’ve been through the blackout. I’ve been through Sandy. I’ve been through the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. And this is different. 9/11 was a horrendous thing, but there was no impact like this on hospitals. Sandy, some hospitals were completely devastated, and it was horrendous and awful, but the weather got better. And you could start cleaning up. But this is just getting worse. I have never been in a war. It feels like a war.”

Street-closure pilot program will shut down four streets to vehicle traffic

Stretches of one street in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan will be shut down to vehicle traffic and opened to pedestrians in a pilot of a program meant to make social distancing easier by giving people more space to walk. The following streets will be closed to cars from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Friday to Monday.

Manhattan: Park Avenue, between 28th Street and 34th Street.
Brooklyn: Bushwick Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Flushing Avenue.
Queens: 34th Avenue, between 73rd Street to 80th Street.
Bronx: Grand Concourse, between East Burnside Avenue and 184th Street.

COVID-19 spreading fast in NYC jails

New York City has seen a faster spread of the coronavirus than any other place in the U.S. and the city’s jails have it even worse. According to an analysis by the Legal Aid Society, there are now 14.5 infections per 1,000 inmates in city jails. That’s compared to two per 1,000 people in the city at large. On Wednesday, the Department of Corrections reported 75 total cases in city jails, up from 52 cases reported Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 25

An ‘apocalyptic’ report from Elmhurst Hospital Center

At the 545-bed public hospital in central Queens, 13 people at Elmhurst had died in 24 hours from the coronavirus. “It’s apocalyptic,” Dr. Ashley Bray, a general medicine resident, told the New York Times. As the paper reported, in a period of a few hours on Tuesday, “Bray performed chest compressions at Elmhurst Hospital Center on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into cardiac arrest. All eventually died.”

Evidence social distancing measures are working

In a rare bit of good news from Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday press conference, he said there is some evidence that the social distancing measures taken by New York residents are working. To demonstrate, he pointed to projections of how many hospital beds will be needed in the state to treat patients. As of Sunday, he said, the projection was hospitalizations would double every two days. But on Monday, the projection shifted, with doubling expected every 3.4 days. The trend continued Tuesday as doubling expected every 4.7 days.

Cuomo cautioned that these projections are “almost too good to be true.” Still, he said, “This is a very good sign and a positive sign. I’m not 100 percent sure it holds or it’s accurate, but the arrows are headed in the right direction and that is always better than the arrows headed in the wrong direction.”

NYC to pilot street closures

In his Wednesday morning press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he and New York City mayor Bill De Blasio have agreed on a new plan to reduce congestion in city parks. Part of the plan will “pilot closing streets in New York City,” he said. That would leave the streets closed to vehicles but open to pedestrians.

40,000 sign-ups for surge health-care force

In anticipation of a coming peak in coronavirus cases, the state has reached out to retirees and medical professionals who are out of the occupation to build what Cuomo called a “surge medical force.” So far, he said, there have been 40,000 sign-ups for “possible reserve duty.” Among them are 2,265 physicians, 2,409 nurse practitioners, and more than 16,000 registered nurses.

NYU offers med students early graduation

Senior medical students at NYU have been offered a chance to graduate three months early if they agree to immediately go to work at NYU Langone Health’s Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine departments. The offer was made in an email to students Tuesday. “With the growing spread of COVID-19, our hospitals inundated with patients, and our colleagues on the front lines working extra-long hours, we are still short-staffed in emergency and internal medicine,” the e-mail said.

The situation in New York City’s hospitals has become increasingly dire as cases in the city continue to rise.

Taxi drivers take a hit, commuters may get a refund

NYC’s taxi industry, like many other industries, is being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak and shutdowns that have followed. Some drivers tell the Times they’re now waiting five or six hours for one passenger, and the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade reported a 91 percent drop in ridership last weekend. “This crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told the paper. “Every New Yorker is struggling, and for-hire vehicle drivers are among the hardest hit.”

Meanwhile, the MTA seems poised to give commuters a break on unused MetroCards. Though the details of any coming refunds are not yet clear, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on NY1 Monday: “With respect to refunds, we’re going to do the right thing.”

Tuesday, March 24

Inside New York’s hospitals

The Associated Press reports on how health care workers are withstanding the surge of coronavirus patients:

A “cacophony of coughing” in packed emergency rooms. Beds squeezed in wherever there is space. Overworked, sleep-deprived doctors and nurses rationed to one face mask a day and wracked by worry about a dwindling number of available ventilators. …

“These are people in severe respiratory distress, needing to be intubated and needing the intensive care unit,” he said. “We knew it was coming. We saw it in Italy and other places so we were prepared for it, and now we’re seeing it.”

Columbia University chief surgeon Dr. Craig Smith wrote in a note to colleagues: “To think we could mimic Italy seemed risible a week ago. Not today.”

White House asks anyone leaving NYC area to self-quarantine for 14 days, Fauci says 1/1000 New Yorkers likely infected

“For anyone in the New York metropolitan area who has traveled, our task force is encouraging you to monitor your temperature, be sensitive to symptoms,” explained Vice President Pence in a Tuesday afternoon press conference, “And we are asking anyone who has traveled out of the New York City metropolitan area to anywhere else in the country to self isolate for 14 days.”

The recommendation, which was endorsed by both National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci and coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, came in light of the tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases which have been discovered in and around the city in recent weeks. Fauci highlighted the exodus of many New Yorkers to other parts of the country. “They’re going to Florida. They’re going to Long Island. They’re going to different places,” Fauci said.

He estimated that roughly one out of every thousand people leaving the New York City area were infected, a “disturbing” statistic which he said was “about eight to 10 times more than in other areas.”

Birx recommended that the self-quarantines begin based on when people left, and she praised Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s self-quarantine order for anyone arriving in Florida from the tri-state area — and order DeSantis said Tuesday he would expand to also retroactively include everyone who had come to Florida from the area over the past three weeks.

Trump is attacking Cuomo

Per the Washington Post, Trump was clearly looking to blame Governor Cuomo for the New York outbreak during a Tuesday town hall on Fox News:

Early in his appearance, he referred to an allegation floating around on fringe websites that Cuomo had in 2015 turned down thousands of ventilators. There was no pandemic taking place at that point, and the source was former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey (R), who offered no apparent substantiation. The report accused Cuomo of establishing “death panels and lottery instead.”

Trump tried to hand a copy of the report to Fox News host Bill Hemmer, but Hemmer cited the need for social distancing.

“I’m not blaming him or anything else, but he shouldn’t be talking about us,” Trump said. “He’s supposed to be buying his own ventilators.” …

When Deborah Birx, the head of the government’s coronavirus task force, weighed in on why the problem was worse in New York than in other states, she cited the density of the metropolitan area’s population and the fact that travelers may have returned there from Asia before travel restrictions went into place. Trump wanted her to cite another reason, though: Cuomo. He cut in on Birx and asked her, “Do you blame the governor for that?”

Cuomo: Peak of the outbreak will be higher and sooner than previously thought

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday revised the most dire projections for the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in New York. Rather than the 110,000 beds previously thought to be needed when the outbreak peaks, he said the state will require 140,000. “The apex is higher than we thought, and the apex is sooner than we thought,” he said in a press conference at the Javits Center.

Cuomo also addressed the federal government’s response, criticizing the White House for not using the Defense Production Act to produce more ventilators. The state needs 30,000 ventilators, he said, and FEMA is sending 400. “What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”

The outbreak hits the MTA

The MTA on Tuesday said it is cutting “duplicative subway service” due to having “fewer train crews available while our employees follow steps that health officials recommend for everyone.” That means no B, W, or Z train service on Tuesday. The announce comes as the MTA is cutting service at a rate nines-times greater than usual, NY1 reports:

The number of subway trips canceled because of a lack of conductors and train operators is growing. Internal MTA figures obtained by NY1 show 1,090 subway trips were canceled from last Wednesday through Sunday, a nearly nine-fold increase compared to the 126 trips, canceled from March 4th through 10th.

There are currently at least 23 MTA employees with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Javits Center transformation begins

The New York International Auto Show was supposed to open at the Javits Center on April 10. Instead, the massive glass complex will soon be home to four emergency hospitals constructed by FEMA, each with 250 beds. Another 1,000 beds, set up by the Army Corps of Engineers, will be available for hospital overflow.

“You are going to see an overcapacity of our health system,” Cuomo said during a tour of the facility Monday. “Luckily, Javits has plenty of space.”

NYC area’s “attack rate” is five times greater than the rest of the country

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in a press conference Monday evening that the COVID-19 “attack rate” for the New York City metro area, including New Jersey and parts of Long Island, is five times greater than the rest of the nation. Roughly 28 percent of tests in the metro area have come back positive for COVID-19, while that’s true of just 8 percent of tests around the U.S.

“Clearly, the virus had been there for a number of weeks,” she said. “To all of my friends and colleagues in New York, this is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time.”

Monday, March 23

Putting New York’s outbreak in context

Versus the rest of the U.S.
Well over half of the confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases have been discovered in New York. As of Monday, cases in the state account for 58 percent of cases nationwide, and including 33 percent of the U.S. deaths from the disease.

The most testing in the nation, too
The state has also done more testing for the virus than any other state — 78,000 tests and counting as of Monday, according to Governor Cuomo, compared with a little more than 26,000 tests done in California as of Saturday.

NYC-area cases dominate
As of Monday, New York City’s more than 12,300 COVID-19 cases accounted for more than 58 percent of the state’s overall cases. And a total of nearly 8,000 cases have been discovered in the counties surrounding the city.

Versus the world
New York currently has more confirmed coronavirus cases per capita than Italy. If the state were a country, it would have more cases than every other country in the world other than Italy, Iran, China, Spain, and Germany.

New York City’s outbreak chart

As of Monday morning:

Photo: Handout

A look at the demographics of New York City’s cases

As of Monday morning, nearly half of the confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City have been in people younger than 45 years old, and 57 percent of the people with confirmed cases have been male.

Cuomo orders hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent

Governor Cuomo said Monday that he had issued an emergency order directing New York hospitals to expand their capacity by 50 percent. “Find more beds, use more rooms,” Cuomo said at his Monday press conference, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say try to reach a 100 percent increase but you must reach a 50 percent increase.”

So far, roughly 13 percent of New York coronavirus cases have resulted in hospitalization, and as of Monday morning, 2,635 COVID-19 patients were being cared for in New York hospitals — including 621 in intensive care. But health officials believe the state will need as many as 113,000 hospital beds to handle the outbreak — more than double the current capacity of 53,000 beds. Even worse is the projected ICU unit shortage: health officials have said the state may need as many as 18,000 to 37,000 intensive care units for COVID-19 patients, but there are currently only 3,000.

On Sunday, Cuomo announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was building four temporary hospitals inside the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, and another three in the New York City suburbs. The USNS Comfort hospital ship is also on its way to New York.

De Blasio: NYC likely to “lose the whole school year”

On the same day that New York City public schools began a new remote-learning program for its 1.1 million students, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it’s unlikely they will return to the classroom this school year. “I do unfortunately believe the likelihood right now is that we lose the whole school year,” which is “deeply unfortunate,” he said.

That’s particularly significant for the 300,000 estimated students who do not have the ability to take part in the remote-learning program. The city is working to get Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and tablets to those students, but as of this week only 25,000 were available.

NYPD cases nearly double

The number of known COVID-19 cases in the NYPD nearly doubled over the weekend, with officials confirming 98 cases on Sunday, up from 52 Friday. “In one Brooklyn precinct, the entire detective squad called out Sunday,” the New York Post reported. The number of officers calling in sick is roughly 1,000, double the average. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told the Post that the department has enough officers and staff to absorb the absences, at least for now.

Sunday, March 22

De Blasio and Cuomo again call on Trump for federal resources

In an interview on Meet the Press, Mayor de Blasio condemned the president again for his failure to mobilize the resources of the federal government. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Right now, I have asked repeatedly for the military to be mobilized, for the Defense Production Act to be used to its fullest to get us things like ventilators, so people can live who would die otherwise. “If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise — senior citizens, folks who are members of families.”

On Sunday, Governor Cuomo called on Trump to “order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators, the essential medical equipment that is going to make the difference between life and death.” (The president can do so via the Defense Production Act, which he’s so far been hesitant to invoke.) After Cuomo and other governors critiqued Trump or asked him to ramp up federal response efforts, Trump said that they should stop “blaming” his administration “for their own shortcomings.”

U.S. Army building four temporary hospitals

Governor Cuomo said Sunday that he had approved the building of temporary hospitals at four downstate locations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those locations will be the Javits Center in Manhattan as well as sites in Stony Brook, Westbury, and Westchester.

NYC public parks (and public) will face new scrutiny

Governor Cuomo gave city leaders 24 hours to come up with a plan to limit the use of public parks on Sunday. Cuomo said he was “appalled” at the number of people who were congregating in the city’s parks on Saturday. “There is a density level in New York City that is wholly inappropriate,” Cuomo said at his Sunday coronavirus press conference, noting that he saw people playing basketball and shopping in open-air markets:

You would think there is nothing going on in New York City. You would think it’s just a bright sunny Saturday. I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get … This is not life as usual. I was in these parks and you would not know there is anything going on. This is just a mistake! A mistake! It’s insensitive! It’s arrogant! It’s self-destructive! It’s disrespectful to other people! It has to stop and it has to stop now! This is not a joke and I am not kidding!

“The City has already banned team sports and revoked all permits for large gatherings and has increased the presence of NYPD and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers to enforce social distancing,” a city spokesperson told Gothamist. The Parks Department says it has been cleaning and disinfecting park facilities to control the spread of COVID-19, but that doesn’t currently include regular cleaning of outdoor furniture and playground equipment.

On Sunday afternoon, NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said that police would be patrolling parks and both breaking up large groups and politely reminding people to return home after getting their exercise. It’s not clear if or what penalties parkgoers will face if they don’t comply.

Another call for releasing people from NYC jails, where at least 38 people have tested positive

The Board of Correction asked city leaders in a letter on Saturday to begin immediately releasing some of the roughly 7,000 people currently in custody in New York City jails — particularly those in custody at highest risk of dying from the coronavirus. The BOC, which oversees the city’s jail system, said that in the past week it has learned that at least 17 employees of the Department of Correction and Correctional Health Service had tested positive for COVID-19 as well as at least 21 people being held throughout the city’s jail system. Fifty-eight people in custody were also being monitored in the contagious-disease and quarantine units.

“It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” the board said. “Given the nature of jails (e.g., dense housing areas and structural barriers to social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation), the number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 is certain to rise exponentially.”

Regarding whom to let out, the BOC highlighted more than 3,000 people in city custody who are:

  • Over the age of 50
  • Have underlying health conditions
  • Are in custody for technical parole violations (“including failure to make curfew, missing a meeting with a parole officer, or testing positive for drugs”)
  • Are serving city sentences of less than a year for low-level offenses

The Legal Aid Society has also sued the city to release 116 parole violators with underlying health conditions who are in custody.

More than 200 people have been approved for release by district attorneys in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, but it’s not clear if and when they will be let out. (Both a DA and a judge have to sign off on the releases.)

One of the reported deaths from the coronavirus in New York was a DOC investigator, who died last week. In addition, on Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported the first inmate case of COVID-19 at the notorious Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 21

FAA briefly halted flights into and out of New York City

All flights to and from airports in the New York City area and Philadelphia were temporarily halted on Saturday for about two hours after the FAA learned an air-traffic-controller trainee had tested positive for the coronavirus. The trainee last worked at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma on March 17, and the FAA shut down travel to the region while the center was cleaned.

New York City restricts testing to preserve medical supplies

In an effort to preserve dwindling medical equipment and testing supplies, the New York City Department of Health has directed city health-care facilities to stop testing for the coronavirus for anyone who is not hospitalized.

“At this point in the pandemic, demand for unnecessary testing is contributing to the rapidly diminishing supply of PPE and leading to a decreasing supply of swabs and viral transport media used to collect diagnostic specimens for COVID-19 testing,” the department said in a statement. “Testing may play a more significant role after the pandemic has peaked.”

Life during the coronavirus pandemic

In Intelligencer’s first installment of a weekly poll about how the coronavirus crisis is affecting our readers, more than 1,000 people weighed in with their thoughts, fears, and how often they are leaving their homes:

  • Not at all: 15.50%
  • Just for essential errands: 73.26%
  • I still have to leave for work but am not making many other trips: 9.50%
  • I’m living my life as normal: 1.74%

Read the rest of the results here, including comments like this:

Climbing the front of this curve feels like the first big hill of a months-long roller coaster that I’m riding against my will.

The public-school system’s safety net

Also here at Intelligencer, Collier Meyerson reports on how the shutdown of the New York City public-school system is already having an impact on the city’s most vulnerable:

[F]for low-income families (about 73 percent live in poverty), 114,000 homeless students, undocumented students, and English-language learners, school closures are a cataclysmic event. It isn’t that those impacted wish for schools to remain open during a pandemic, but the realities of life without a safe place for kids to go and learn reveal how integral the school system is for New York City’s most vulnerable and how so many social safety-net measures are tied to it.

The biggest school system in the country is now struggling to create a new normal, where the needs of New York City’s most unprotected residents are taken care of. But it’s not that simple.

Read more about the crisis how some families are being affected by the shutdown here.

Friday, March 20

New York declared a disaster area

On Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a Major Disaster Declaration for New York — opening up billions of dollars in federal disaster aid for the state as it tries to handle the country’s largest known coronavirus outbreak.

Cuomo announces a “pause” on public movement

After resisting Mayor de Blasio’s call for a shelter-in-place order, Governor Cuomo announced Friday what he’s calling a “pause.” The new measures call for all non-essential businesses to keep 100 percent of their workforce at home. Pharmacies and grocery stores will stay open.

Cuomo also announced bans on all nonessential gatherings and several other provisions for those in non-vulnerable populations. New Yorkers, he said, should “remain indoors to the greatest extent.”

De Blasio blasts Trump, new call for shelter-in-place order

On CNN Friday morning, Mayor de Blasio said the Trump administration needs to step up and help the city, which now has nearly a third of the nation’s cases of COVID-19. “I have made repeated appeals to the federal government to get us basic medical supplies, and there is no meaningful response,” he said. “Where the hell is the federal government in the middle of the biggest crisis we’ve seen in generations?”

On MSNBC, he said the Feds have sent New York City expired medical supplies. He also renewed his call for a shelter-in-place order in New York City, something that Governor Cuomo must order but has so far resisted. Citing an order given by California governor Gavin Newsom, who told the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home Thursday, de Blasio said, “What the State of California did was a recognition of a necessity.”

Cuomo orders more closures

Barber shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, and “similar services” will be shut down in New York State beginning Friday at 8 p.m., Governor Cuomo tweeted. New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania will do the same. The closure comes a day after the indoor sections of shopping malls, amusement parks, and bowling alleys were shut down.

Thursday, March 19

New York City Council Speaker calls for $550 for every resident

On Thursday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed that every adult in New York City receive a “temporary universal basic income” of $550 and every child receive $275 as part of a $12 billion stimulus package. Justifying the measure, he stated that the impact of any UBI payment from the federal government “is far less in New York than almost every other city in the country.”

A surge in new cases as testing expands

Governor Cuomo announced more than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a jump that comes as testing is expanded around the state. Cuomo said the state processed tests for more than 7,500 people Wednesday night and that 22,284 people total have been tested in New York. Of those who’ve tested positive, 777 have been hospitalized, a 19 percent hospitalization rate.

In his remarks, Cuomo said the outbreak “reminds me of 9/11.” He continued: “Children who were young at that time, but of school age, watched on TV. They didn’t know if their parents were coming home. I think it changed their whole outlook on life after 9/11. This is a situation like that.”

Cuomo announces a raft of new rules

New York businesses are now required to keep at least 75 percent of their workforce at home, Governor Cuomo said Thursday. He also announced that mortgage payments will be waived for 90 days for people financially hurt by the outbreak. “If you are not working, if you are working only part time, we are going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days,” he said. “That will be a real-life economic benefit. It will also be a stress reliever for many families.” Fees for ATM overdrafts will be waived and foreclosures will also be suspended, he said.

Wednesday, March 18 and before

Amazon confirms a case in its Queens warehouse

“We’re writing to let you know that a positive case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was found at our facility today,” a Wednesday text to workers at the Amazon warehouse in Queens read, according to The Atlantic. Workers were sent home so that the facility could be disinfected, as the company faces a surge of orders as Americans stuck at home turn to the e-commerce site en masse. Two office workers in Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle have already tested positive, though this is the first case among hourly warehouse workers who handle goods directly.

A family tragedy in central New Jersey

The New York Times reported of an Italian-American family based in Freehold, New Jersey, in which a 73-year-old grandmother, Grace Fusco, died on Wednesday night from the infection. Hours before, her son, Carmine Fusco, passed away from the virus. Five days before that, her daughter, Rita Fusco-Jackson, succumbed to the virus. Grace Fusco did not know that two of her children had died before her. In total, six of her children tested positive for the coronavirus; three of them are still in critical condition.

Naval hospital ship to anchor in New York Harbor — eventually

The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed naval hospital ship, is on its way to New York City, Governor Cuomo said Wednesday. The 894-foot ship, which will be moored in New York Harbor, will add to the hospital capacity in the city, where there are only 53,000 hospital beds. Cuomo has said the city could need more than 100,000 beds when infections peak in 45 days.

The announcement comes after Mayor de Blasio called for the U.S. military to take a bigger role in combating the outbreak in the nation’s largest city. “The military has extraordinary medical capacity,” he said on the Today show. “It’s needed in places like New York right now.”

Unfortunately, the Comfort won’t be able to provide for New Yorkers in need right now:

New York State’s unemployment website crashes

The New York State Labor Department’s website to file for unemployment benefits is having trouble keeping up with the crush of traffic coming its way. On Tuesday, moves were made to increase capacity, the Times reports:

On Tuesday, it added staff, expanded hours and instituted a new system limiting filings to certain days.

Those with last names starting with the letters A through F can file on Mondays. Tuesdays are for letters G through N, and Wednesdays for the rest of the alphabet. On Thursdays and Fridays, anyone can apply.

“We experienced a massive increase in the volume of Unemployment Insurance claims, which slowed down the server,” the department said in a social-media post. “It continues to be addressed but now appears to be operational.”

MTA asks for a $4 billion bailout

With subway ridership down 60 percent, bus ridership down almost 50 percent, and commuter-rail ridership down almost 90 percent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wrote to New York’s congressional delegation on Tuesday requesting a $4 billion bailout package. Of those funds, $300 million would go to cleaning costs related to combating the infection, while the other $3.7 billion would buttress the continent’s largest public-transportation system through the period of decreased traffic.

NYC adding 8,200 hospital beds, faces ventilator shortage

The city is moving to rapidly add 8,200 beds to local hospitals through a combination of “retrofitting facilities that have nothing to do with health care” and carving out new space in existing hospitals by postponing elective surgeries and discharging patients early, Mayor de Blasio said Monday night. The city will also be opening five drive-up facilities for health-care workers to be tested for the coronavirus.

Setting up hospital rooms is one thing, but having enough ventilators for them is another. According to a 2015 report from the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, “New York could be short by as many as 15,783 ventilators a week at the peak of the crisis,” the Times reports.

New York primary could be postponed, Queens special election canceled

Discussions are under way at the New York State Board of Elections to delay the New York primary from April 28 to June 23, the New York Times reported Sunday. Two states and Puerto Rico have already postponed their primaries. Should New York follow suit, the decision would be made by Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature.

On Sunday, Mayor de Blasio announced that the March 24 special election for Queens Borough president was canceled. Acting Borough President Sharon Lee, who has temporarily replaced former borough president Melinda Katz, said she would continue to serve in the meantime.

“Everyone in New York should assume that they have been in contact with COVID-19”

New York City officials briefed United Nations diplomats on Saturday that the coronavirus has spread throughout the city, could threaten residents through late September, and that “everyone in New York should assume that they have been in contact with COVID-19,” according to Foreign Policy.

New York is offering its own sanitizer

This probably makes sense at a time when Purell is more valuable than oil:

As Intelligencer’s Adam K. Raymond noted in his write-up on the product launch, “NYS Clean” doesn’t just address a supply shortage during a public-health emergency, cost a little more than $6 a gallon, and make a good backdrop for a press conference — it can also be used to threaten corporations:

At the press conference, Cuomo said the state will mass produce the sanitizer if price gouging continues. “To Purell and Mr. Amazon and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging, we will introduce our product, which is superior to your product, and you don’t even have the floral bouquet,” he said. “So stop price gouging.”

Initial reporting stated that NYS Clean is manufactured by inmates at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County, who reportedly make roughly $0.65 an hour and may not be able to use the sanitizer themselves — because it contains alcohol. But Vice News reported on March 25 that inmates at Great Meadow “are doing nothing more than taking existing hand sanitizer and rebottling it into packaging labeled NYS Clean.”

This post has been updated throughout to reflect new information and context.

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