New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that the state had managed to stabilize coronaviris infection rates and averted fears that the hospital system would be overwhelmed.
Speaking at a briefing to reporters, Cuomo said that new cases had leveled off at a “manageable” 2,000 a day. “The health care situation has stabilized, the fear of overwhelming the healthcare system has not happened,” he said.
Cuomo credited the “phenomenal work of our front-line workers” and said the hospital system had managed to increase its capacity by 50% in just one month. He also credited the Federal Government and the Army Corp of Engineers who built a 2,000 bed overflow hospital at the Javitz Convention Center.
Cuomo said the state would now be able to begin to help other regions and he was sending 100 ventilators to Michigan and another 50 to Maryland.
“There are other places in this country that are now seeing increases in the death rate,” he said. “I will never forget the generosity people across this country showed to our state. When you need help, we will be there for you.”
Though hospitalizations from the outbreak are leveling off, New York officials are trying to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises. New York recorded 752 deaths Tuesday, for a total of more than 11,000 in just over a month.
Those figures don’t include roughly 4,000 other deaths in New York City during the outbreak that city officials say were probably caused by the virus, but haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.
Cuomo also announced that New York residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out in public and coming in close contact with other people.
The new outbreak-fighting mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, subways, buses or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The promised executive order from Cuomo echoes recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The order takes effect Friday, the governor said, and either a mask or a cloth covering such as a bandanna will work.
“Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “On what theory would you not do that?”
The governor said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he’s urging merchants to enforce it among customers.
Cuomo’s announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect store workers against exposure. De Blasio had previously recommended face coverings in public in the city.
The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
Also Wednesday, Cuomo said New York has developed its own antibody test that could help detect those immune to coronavirus as the state looks to gradually end its shutdown.
“We’re going to prioritize the antibody testing for first responders and essential workers,” Cuomo told reporters. “It’s a finger prick test so it’s not terribly invasive.”
Officials are battling with how to get crippled economies up and running again without increasing the rate of infections as the world awaits a vaccine for the deadly virus.
Cuomo said he had a “blueprint” centered on testing residents for the virus, and then tracing and isolating those who have it to control the spread.
Health officials believe antibody tests that have just entered the market and look for whether a person has been previously infected are crucial in answering questions about immunity.
It isn’t yet clear whether people who were previously infected will be immune and if so for how long, experts say.
The illness has claimed more than 27,000 lives across the United States, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.