Two senior citizens died in the state’s first coronavirus COVID-19-related deaths and two state lawmakers tested positive for the illness, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
The governor announced the state's first death of an 82-year-old woman in a press call Saturday morning. She had pre-existing emphysema and died Friday in a Brooklyn hospital. She was first admitted to the hospital March 3, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“This was an 82-year-old woman who had an underlying respiratory illness, emphysema, for which she had been hospitalized previously,” Cuomo said. “She then contracted the coronavirus on top of the emphysema and she passed.”
A 65-year-old Rockland County man with multiple underlying health problems was the state's second coronavirus-related death, Cuomo said in a press call Saturday night.
"After he passed and they did the autopsy, they identified coronavirus," Cuomo said. "This is what we have been talking about quote unquote vulnerable populations... underlying illnesses that can be aggravated by pneumonia."
President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency late Friday afternoon and announced a $50 billion in federal funding to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
The state had 190 additional positive COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the statewide total to 615, according to Cuomo's office and a statement from Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. Of the 615 New Yorkers with the virus, more than 117, or about 22%, are hospitalized, Cuomo said.
Saturday's new positive cases include Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, D-41; and Assemblyman Charles Barron, D-60. Both lawmakers have not been in Albany since the beginning of the month, Cuomo said.
"We have spoken with the Senate and are undertaking an intensive cleaning of the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building," Cuomo said. "All legislators and staff that have come in contact with these members will be tested to ensure the safety of everyone."
The state Capitol is closed to visitors effective immediately.
"I am coordinating with the New York state Department of Health to ensure the safety of my constituents, colleagues and staff," Weinstein said in a statement, adding she has not been in Albany since March 4 for personal matters.
Weinstein started to have COVID-19 symptoms, which include cough, fever and shortness of breath, March 11.
"I have not had contact with any staff or constituents during this period," she added. "I immediately self-quarantined to ensure the safety of my family, friends and the community. I am resting comfortably and continue to work from home on legislative matters, and I am disappointed that I cannot be with my colleagues as we work toward a budget agreement."
The virus has been detected in 18 counties. Of the state's positive cases of COVID-19, Westchester has 178; New York City, 269; Nassau, 79; Suffolk, 33; Rockland, 10; Orange, 6; Ulster, 5; Saratoga and Erie, 3; Dutchess, 4; Albany, 7; Monroe, 2; and one each in Broome, Delaware, Herkimer, Schenectady, Tioga, Tompkins.
"We're now up to 4,700 tests, with 736 additional tests since we last briefed this afternoon," Cuomo said Saturday night.
Albany County has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, McCoy said in an updated statement Saturday night — up from three positives Friday.
McCoy declared a state of emergency in the county Saturday morning, with 102 residents under mandatory quarantine and 39 in precautionary quarantine. The executive also announced a new partnership to tackle price gouging of protective medical equipment, hand sanitizer and other supplies in high demand as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the state and nation.
“While we try to tamp down on the panic that exists throughout our communities, those who attempt to exploit that fear as we confront the spread of COVID-19 need to be held accountable,” McCoy said. “While the state of emergency is in effect, we will be able to quickly move funds and resources where necessary to protect county residents.”
Roughly 2,000 people are in precautionary quarantine statewide, Cuomo said, which is down from more than 4,000 last week.
“This is cyclical,” the governor said of residents in isolation. “You’re quarantined for 14 days...you are then off quarantine and someone else starts.”
Cuomo opened the state’s first drive-through COVID-19 mobile testing center Friday morning in New Rochelle. The Westchester County testing facility serviced 150 vehicles and tested 263 people Friday, and is expected to increase to 500 tests in the coming days, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
A second mobile testing facility on Long Island will help the state to conduct at least 6,000 tests per day starting next week, in addition to the testing performed at the 28 public and private labs across the state.
Cuomo also announced the state Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive co-pays for telehealth visits, which will allow New Yorkers to seek medical attention from home rather than visit a hospital or doctor’s office and reduce the strain on the health care system and prevent further spread, according to Cuomo’s office.
“As the novel coronavirus continues to spread and the number of positive cases increases, we are encouraging New Yorkers to use telemedicine if they are sick and we will set up a new drive-through mobile testing facility on Long Island to help keep people out of emergency rooms and reduce the strain on our health care system,” Cuomo said. “The more tests we do, the higher the number of positive cases we will see — so we need to keep that context in mind when we see these numbers continuing to go up. And we will continue to communicate the facts, because the facts and the information defeat the fear and anxiety in this situation.”