JOHNSON CITY — The Capital District is one step closer to reopening and nursing home staff who do not comply with state mandated diagnostic COVID-19 tests may lose their job, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, after requesting $60 billion in federal funding to help New York.
The Capital District region must satisfy one more of the state’s seven requirements to start reopening the economy with construction and manufacturing businesses at the end of the week. The Capital Region satisfied five of seven requirements Monday, and overnight, met a three-day average of a 14-day decline in net COVID-19 hospitalizations or under 15 new virus patients. To start reopening, the region must have a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, or fewer than five deaths in that period.
“We’re reopening, yes, but you have to be smart,” Cuomo said Tuesday afternoon during a pandemic briefing at SUNY Binghamton School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Don’t fall subject to emotion and politics. Stay with the science and data. If you don’t, you run a real risk that can trigger an outbreak that is out of control.”
The Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions will start reopening after the governor’s NY On Pause order, which closed schools and nonessential businesses and enforced social-distancing measures, expires Friday.
The North Country also has one state requirement left to meet. The region needs 30 per 1,000 residents tested for COVID-19 each month, a seven-day average of new tests each day.
The governor is expected to issue an executive order requiring all nursing-home staff be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, starting this week.
Nursing-home staff members cannot be forced to take a test, but Cuomo said workers who refuse to be tested do not have a right to work in a nursing home.
“I’d have to check with my lawyers because I always get myself into litigation I would say, unnecessarily. We can’t make you take a test,” Cuomo said. “If a test is available and there’s no cost to you, why wouldn’t you take the test? If you don’t want to take the test, why would we let you work in a nursing home and let you endanger a potentially vulnerable population?”
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached at least 21,113 Tuesday — up from 20,918 Monday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 21,835 Tuesday.
The state saw 161 virus-related deaths Monday, including 142 in hospitals and 53 in nursing homes. The death rate is fluctuating slightly, but remains flat after 161 fatalities Sunday and 207 Saturday.
“We’re just about where we were when we started before we saw the onslaught of the virus,” Cuomo said of the state’s daily death rate.
The state tested 1,225,113 people as of Tuesday, revealing 338,485 total positive cases of COVID-19. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 7,063 patients Tuesday, down 163, according to the governor’s office.
Three young New Yorkers recently died from inflammatory complications tied to COVID-19, including a 5-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy and 18-year-old woman. The complications cause inflammation of blood vessels and extremities, mimicking symptoms similar to severe illnesses such as Kawasaki disease and toxic-shock syndrome.
New York hospitals have 100 reported cases of virus-related illnesses in children — up from 85 cases Monday. To date, the complications predominantly affect toddlers to young teens who do not exhibit respiratory or other typical coronavirus symptoms.
“It can affect the heart,” Cuomo said. “This is something that is just starting. This is truly a disturbing situation. I know parents around the state and around the country are very concerned about this and they should be. If we have this issue in New York, it’s probably in other states and probably hasn’t been diagnosed yet.”
Of the state’s 100 cases, 29% are ages 5-9; 28% are ages 10-14; 18% are 1-4; 16% are ages 15-19, 5% are less than a year old and 4% are ages 20-21, according to the governor’s office.
Medical attention should be sought immediately when a child has a fever lasting more than five days, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, a change in skin color, such as turning pale or blue, trouble breathing, decreased amount or frequency of urination, racing heart rate or infants having difficulty feeding or drinking fluids, according to the governor’s office.
Dozens of state medical officials are leading the investigation into the cases with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The findings will be shared nationwide.
The National Governors Association renewed its bipartisan request Tuesday for the third time for $500 billion from the federal government to rebuild state economies. Cuomo first issued the joint statement with association Chairman Maryland Larry Hogan, a Republican, on April 12 and again April 17.
“Democrats and Republicans working together will make this statement, and Washington should listen,” Cuomo said.
The governor has pleaded for federal funding for state and local governments for weeks to prevent a 20% cut to schools, hospitals and localities as New York faces a minimum $13.3 billion budget shortfall.
The state needs $61 billion in federal support, Cuomo said Tuesday.
“Washington must act smartly,” Cuomo said. “There has to be a time in history when the federal government is willing to stop playing partisan politics. If it’s not through this experience, this crisis, it will never be.”
Several members of the state’s congressional delegation plan to push Cuomo’s proposed Americans First Law to prohibit corporations receive federal coronavirus funding if they do not rehire its same number of employees as before the pandemic.
As regions start the state’s four-phase reopening plan, officials will monitor a region’s COVID-19 infection rate with testing, contact tracing and antibody data. Local regional control groups, comprised of elected area officials and administrators, will manage local businesses to ensure they comply with social-distancing measures to keep customers and employees 6 feet apart and reduce density.
The governor has compared reopening the state while monitoring COVID-19 numbers to turning a valve on and off. Countries like Singapore, South Korea and Germany have had to reinstate stay-at-home orders and reclose businesses after a virus resurgence.
“Worst-case scenario, you turn off the valve,” Cuomo said. “Hopefully you don’t get to that point because you’ve been monitoring and calibrating. That’s what other countries have had to do when they reopened too quickly.
“If those gauges stay down, open the valve more.”
The state will update each region’s progress on a virtual dashboard daily. For more information, visit forward.ny.gov/regional-monitoring-dashboard.
The governor held up several masks sent to New York from across the country in the state’s fight against the pandemic.
“Even if it says nothing, it does say something,” Cuomo said. “When you wear a mask, you say, to everyone you walk past, ‘I respect you. I respect your health. I respect your privacy. I respect your space.’
“We have a reciprocal responsibility that says I am going to respect you and you’re going to help me and respect me. That’s how you battle community spread — with community unity. That’s what the mask says.”
To see the complete county breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.