ALBANY — Fewer coronavirus COVID-19 patients entered downstate hospitals Saturday, but the decrease may not be a trend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The decrease could indicate the apex, or height, of the COVID-19 outbreak has arrived in New York City and downstate counties, Cuomo said, but experts will not know when the virus peaks in a region until several days later.
Officials have studied various expert models to determine the pandemic’s curve for the past several weeks and often show graphics featuring a traditional bell curve. The semi-circle shape may not reflect the traditional bell shape to tell the apex has hit, Cuomo said during a COVID-19 briefing in the state Capitol on Sunday. The outbreak may hit a sharp peak and immediately decline, or the apex could be a flat plateau of sustained, high numbers for several days.
“There’s a difference of opinion — when you look at the curve, you could argue you’re seeing a slight plateauing in the data, which would obviously be good news, and then you start to come down,” Cuomo said.
New York City and downstate counties remain the state’s epicenter of the virus outbreak, with rolling apexes expected to hit the rest of New York in the coming weeks. More than 1,000 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to state hospitals since March 28 — or seven consecutive days, but the number declined, which could indicate the peak.
Hospitals received an influx of 1,095 new virus patients Friday, but the figure dropped to 574 new patients Saturday. About 300 COVID-19 patients have entered intensive care each day over the last week, with 395 admissions Friday. The number decreased to 250 new ICU patients Saturday.
“We’re all feeling our way through this,” the governor added. “We’re near the apex, and if the apex is a plateau, we’re on that plateau right now, but we won’t know until the next few days.”
The state’s virus-related deaths climbed to 4,159 by Sunday afternoon, up from 3,565 Saturday. With more than 302,000 people tested and at 122,031 positive cases, just over 13.5% of positively infected New Yorkers are hospitalized, or 16,479 people, with 4,376 patients in the intensive care unit. To date, 74% of New Yorkers hospitalized with the contagion have been discharged, or 12,187 patients.
Six additional residents of Philmont’s Pine Haven nursing home, at 201 Main St., tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to a statement Sunday from Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb.
Seventeen total Pine Haven residents have tested positive for the virus, which is impacting all three wings of the facility. Two of the nursing home residents died from the virus over the past week, Mabb said.
“Pine Haven is being diligent in isolating patients in the facility,” Mabb said Sunday. “Staff is being confined to working in one area, rather than moving between wings.”
The state and county health departments were notified and continue to monitor the Pine Haven outbreak, Mabb said.
The state hospital system remains stressed — especially downstate and in the city where the need is greatest. The federal government is deploying 1,000 medical personnel to New York to assist, including doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians and therapists. Deployment is a priority to New York City public hospitals, and received 325 additional personnel Sunday, Cuomo said.
The state created a centralized hospital coordination team for private and public health centers and facilities to implement plans to shift and balance their patients, staff, personal protective equipment and other resources.
Patients, supplies and ventilators will be transferred from their neighborhood hospitals to hospitals in need, Cuomo said. All hospitals are running short on gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment, with most running on a two to four-day supply.
“We’re running short on supplies all across the board...which makes the entire health care and hospital system uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “We’re literally going day to day with our supplies and staff.”
The governor announced an executive order Friday to take ventilators and PPE from hospitals and other private institutions to redistribute them to hospitals with the highest need to fight COVID-19. The machines will be returned after the pandemic, or the institutions will be reimbursed for the equipment. The order was announced Friday, but had not been signed at press time Sunday.
“You’re asking a system to do more than it has ever done before — more than it was designed to do — and to do it with less,” Cuomo said.
“I understand they’re being asked to do the impossible. Life is options, and we don’t have any other options. You get to a situation and you do what you have to do in the situation and that’s where we are.”
Bipartisan county, state and federal representatives, including U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19; Sen. George Amedore, R-46; Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102; Sens. Jen Metzger, D-42; and Sue Serino, R-41; Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-103; Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan; Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, released a joint statement criticizing Cuomo’s expected executive order to move ventilators from upstate hospitals.
“We are aware of plans to shift ventilators from our upstate communities and are gravely concerned,” according to the representatives’ joint statement. “Health care access in rural communities has long been under strain, and we know the apex of cases in upstate is around the corner. We stand ready to help our fellow New Yorkers, but moving needed ventilators from our region now would be devastating and counter intuitive to all data on the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to work together to do everything in our power to make sure folks in our region have every single thing they need to get through this health crisis.”
Cuomo reiterated the necessity of the state to share resources to save lives, but also help stop the pandemic spread.
“I understand the fear if I lend you my ventilator, what happens when I need one,” the governor said. “It is in your self interest to put out the fire at the neighbor’s house.
“Our wisdom here in New York... our mental wisdom and our ethos is we will help one another,” Cuomo said. “As long as I’m governor of this state, we won’t lose a life if we can prevent it, and we’re not going to lose a life because we didn’t share resources among ourselves.”
Hospitals must work together across the state and nation shifting resources to combat a rolling wave of COVID-19 apexes anticipated to hit different regions at different times, the governor said. The state is the recipient of ventilator donations from two Chinese billionaires and the state of Oregon. Jack Ma and Joe Tsai, the founders of the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, have donated 1,000 ventilators, and Oregon is lending the state 140 of its ventilators.
“The only option I see is a national deployment,” Cuomo said. “People have been so beautiful to us. We’re going to codify everything we’ve learned to get past this curve, and whatever part of the country goes next, we will be there with equipment and personnel and however we can to help.”
While federal agencies work to approve the COVID-19 vaccine, which could take more than a year, the state is working to develop convalescent plasma receptors, antibody, hydroxychloroquine and other COVID-19 treatments, Cuomo said.
“We’re trying all these new treatments — some of them show real promise,” the governor added. “You can see where the story ends. Keep this in mind: This is going to be over... We talk about the family of New York. This is the time the family has to come together — not just out of spirit and love, but out of necessity. You cannot handle this without your brothers and sisters. It can’t be done any other way.”
Kate Lisa covers the Capitol and New York State Legislature for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @KaitlynnLisa