New York deaths up by another 800, but lower hospitalization numbers spark hope
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New York deaths up by another 800, but lower hospitalization numbers spark hope

Fatalities top 7,000, but fewer people being put in intensive care seen as sign of outbreak slackening, as officials warn against becoming complacent

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island,  April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York amid the mounting death toll from the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York amid the mounting death toll from the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK — New York state posted a record-breaking increase in coronavirus deaths for a third consecutive day even as a surge of patients in overwhelmed hospitals slowed, while isolation-weary residents were warned Thursday the crisis was far from over.

The number of deaths rose by 799 to more than 7,000. Governor Andrew Cuomo described the death count as a lagging indicator reflecting the loss of people sickened earlier in the outbreak.

The snapshot of hospitalizations shows a less dire picture. The net 200-patient increase in hospitalizations “is the lowest number we’ve had since this nightmare started,” Cuomo said, and compared with daily increases of more than 1,000 last week. Intensive care admissions also were down. More than 18,200 people were hospitalized.

“Today we can say that we have lost many of our brothers and sisters, but we haven’t lost anyone because they couldn’t get the right and best health care that they could,” Cuomo said at his daily state Capitol news briefing.

A attendant wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns pulls closed a fence intended to conceal the movement of bodies beside refrigerated trailers serving as makeshift morgues at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, April 9, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have been navigating the cross-currents of hopeful and horrible news in recent days. Deaths are spiking, yet new hospitalizations are slowing. Light is at the end of the tunnel, but New Yorkers are being warned not to end their weeks of isolation just yet.

Both leaders, at successive briefings Thursday, used the same metaphor that New York was not “out of the woods” yet.

A patient is wheeled out of Elmhurst Hospital Center to a waiting ambulance, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York, during the current coronavirus outbreak. (AP/Kathy Willens)

“It is good news. ‘Well, now I can relax,’ No, you can’t relax,” Cuomo cautioned. “The flattening of the curve last night happened because of what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before that.”

De Blasio said New York City needs continued social distancing plus more coronavirus testing capacity to reach a point at which the loosening of restrictions could be considered.

“If we really work hard we have a chance of seeing change in May or June,” de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing.

Starting Monday, the city will release ongoing data on three key virus indicators: the number of people admitted to hospitals and suspected of having COVID-19; the number of intensive care unit admissions for the disease; and the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive, de Blasio said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio discuss the state and city’s preparedness for the spread of the coronavirus on March 2, 2020, in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)

All three numbers would have to go down in unison for 10 days to two weeks before the city could consider loosening social distancing restrictions, he said.

But in order to contemplate returning to anything approaching normalcy, he said, the city would also need to be able to test more people for the virus.

“We need some greater capacity,” he said. “I think the federal government is still the most important part of this equation when it comes to testing.”

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