Governor Andrew Cuomo is hopeful about the progress New York is making in flattening the COVID-19 curve — but pledged Thursday that more work will be done to address the high mortality rate in Black and Brown communities.
The governor also seemed to dismiss remarks that Mayor Bill de Blasio made earlier in the day that suggested the city could relax social distancing regulations by late May or early June.
Rapid testing in low-income communities is one way in which Cuomo hopes to curb the number of deaths, especially in communities. According to de Blasio, 34 percent of city fatalities have been among Latinx residents, 28 percent among Blacks, 27 percent among whites, and seven percent among Asians. These numbers suggest that Latinx residents, in particular, are overrepresented among fatalities and white New Yorkers are well underrepresented.
“Today we can say that we have lost many of our brothers and sisters, but we can’t say that we didn’t lose anyone who we could have saved,” Cuomo said. “That is a function of what each and every one of us does… If you don’t want to stay home for yourself, stay home for someone you love.”
A net increase of 200 in hospitalizations in the last 24 hours is the lowest since the crisis began, but 799 people died since yesterday bringing the death toll statewide to over 7,000; more than double the number of lives lost in 9/11.
“[That day] was supposed to be the darkest day for New York for a generation,” Cuomo said.
But regardless of this, Cuomo said there were multiple projections that kept him up at night. A Columbia University theory predicted 136,000 hospitalizations in New York City alone, while a Gates-funded Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projection from April 1 said 73,000 hospital beds would be needed for COVID-19 patients.
Today, New York is at 18,279 hospitalizations, which the governor said was the best that could have been expected.
With the flood of New Yorkers filing for unemployment having collapsed the state’s system, something the Cuomo administration said had never happened before, the site now asks fewer questions and has been streamlined in an effort to prevent issues in the future.
Budget director Robert Mujica said the state government is looking at revenue shortfall of $10-15 billion and waiting for intervention from the federal government to step up with relief. Until then, Mujica said, the state will review its spending priorities and make decisions in 90 days.
“I can’t just sit here and say we’re efficiently running the state when we’re in the position that we are in now… rather than lay off people which would only add to the unemployment and hardship, I would rather freeze raises for employees,” Cuomo said.
The governor scoffed at de Blasio’s earlier suggestion of relaxing social distancing later this spring, cautioning that the crisis is far from over.
“I’m not going to guess when the data will say we should change our practices,” Cuomo said. “But how can you say that? Who can look forward and say this is where we’re going to be in three to four weeks. You saw the projection models from expert companies, which frankly were all off thus far. So I’m not going to say to anyone this is where I think we’re going to be… we’ll know when we get there.”
Cuomo acknowledged that COVID-19 has been underestimated since day 1, a reflection of his own earliest press conferences on the coronavirus as public apprehension started to rise.