Virus cases top 20,000 in NY as new restrictions start
NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers on Monday experienced their first full day of severe restrictions intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases in the state continued to surge.
All of the state’s “nonessential” businesses were closed under an order that also banned nonessential gatherings of individuals. New Yorkers may still go outside their homes to pick up groceries or exercise, but must stay 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a member of their household.
“People are really only going to get food and going back. That’s what we need,” Matt Comet, a private-sector operations executive, observed as he went to pick up a lunch order on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where sidewalks were all but deserted during a raw, rainy lunch hour.
Here are the latest updates about the coronavirus in New York:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised 1,000 beds were coming soon to a vast Manhattan convention center that’s being made into a temporary medical center as officials raced to prepare for an overwhelming number of coronavirus patients.
“This is going to get much worse before it gets better. We are still in the relative calm before the storm,” Cuomo said during a stop at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. “You’re going to see the number of infections, the number of cases, increase dramatically. You are going to see an overcapacity of our health system.”
The number of people who have tested positive for the virus in New York state surged to more than 20,000, with more than half the cases in New York City.
Construction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency temporary hospital at the convention center will start this week and hopefully be done within 10 days, Cuomo said.
Capacity at the convention center could eventually be expanded to 2,000 patients, he said.
The true number of New Yorkers with the virus is unknown. Even though the state is now testing 16,000 people a day, many more ill people are being told by their doctors not to seek either a test or treatment, but to ride it out at home if their symptoms are not severe.
Urging sick people to quarantine themselves, rather than go to the hospital, is intended to relieve pressure on the overtaxed health system.
Cuomo has ordered existing hospitals to increase their capacity by at least 50%.
The scramble to add beds is part of a larger effort to line up adequate supplies of ventilators, masks and other medical equipment.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about the city’s urgent need for medical supplies to curb the spread of the coronavirus. De Blasio told a news conference that 400 ventilators now arriving from the federal stockpile will help, but that thousands more of the breathing machines are needed.
There have been at least 157 deaths in New York state. Around 2,500 people have been hospitalized.
The fatalities have included five residents of a Long Island retirement community that provides assisted living, skilled nursing and other types of care for residents.
The latest death at Peconic Landing, announced Monday, was of an 88-year-old man.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Cuomo said state health officials are testing an experimental treatment on patients seriously ill with the virus. The treatment involves taking plasma from someone who has been infected, processing it and injecting the antibodies into a sick person to stimulate their immune system.
“It’s a trial for people who are in serious condition,” Cuomo said.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the trial, which will begin this week on a “compassionate care basis,” the governor said.
Also, the state on Tuesday will begin to conduct trials of an experimental treatment with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Zithromax, a treatment touted by President Donald Trump.
ONLINE SCHOOLING STARTS
School was back in session Monday for New York City’s 1.1 million public school students, though instruction was happening in digital classrooms.
City education officials gave teachers a crash course in online instruction last week and distributed laptops and tablets to some students who lack them, but Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that many students still lack devices to access their classes and do their homework with.
“We will reach a lot more kids over time,” de Blasio told WPIX-TV. Officials have said pencil-and-paper packets will be available in the meantime.
The New York Police Department said it had around 2,400 officers out sick Monday, nearly 7 percent of its uniformed workforce.
That’s double the department’s daily average number of sick employees, according to an NYPD news release.
The department said the absences have so far had a minimal impact, but that the “NYPD is extremely concerned for the well-being of officers.”
As of Monday morning, 129 officers and non-uniform members had tested positive for the virus.
Anyone from New York City and the surrounding area who goes to Florida will be expected to self-quarantine for two weeks under an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis said on Monday that there are more than 100 flights arriving in Florida each day from New York City and its environs, and he believes that there’s at least one person on every flight who has the new coronavirus.
He said arriving passengers will be screened and told they must self-quarantine and not stay with family or friends.
People who were in close contact with someone who died of COVID-19 should not attend their funeral services because of the risk they could infect others, according to guidance from New York’s health agency.
The state has also limited funeral gatherings to 50% of a funeral home’s maximum capacity or 50 individuals, whichever is lower. There’s no known risk from being in the same room with the body of someone who died from the disease, but the state’s guidance says “people should consider not touching the body.”
“While we all may want to celebrate our loved ones’ lives and memorialize them, at this time, we must continue to practice social distancing and limit large public gatherings, including at funeral services,” said Attorney General Letitia James.
Cuomo said his administration is starting to think about how to get the state’s economy moving again once the worst of the outbreak passes, and whether young people or people who have recovered from COVID-19 could return to work sooner than vulnerable New Yorkers.
“You turned off the engine quickly,” he said. “How do you now start or begin to restart or plan to restart that economic engine?”
Hill and Associated Press writer Marina Villeneuve contributed from Albany, N.Y. AP writer Jennifer Peltz contributed from New York.