ALBANY — New York’s third senior citizen with coronavirus COVID-19 died Sunday, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called on the federal government to equip states with temporary medical centers before hospital beds are overwhelmed with patients.
A 79-year-old woman with COVID-19 and other underlying health issues died in a New York City hospital Sunday, state Department of Health Commissioner
Dr. Howard Zucker said during a coronavirus briefing from the state Capitol on Sunday afternoon. She was first admitted to the hospital last week.
The governor announced the state’s first two COVID-19-related deaths Saturday, including an 82-year-old woman with pre-existing emphysema who died in a Brooklyn hospital and a 65-year-old Rockland County man with underlying health problems.
“This is what we have been talking about ‘vulnerable populations’... underlying illnesses that can be aggravated by pneumonia,” Cuomo said Saturday night, reiterating that senior citizens and people with immune-compromised or other underlying conditions are most at risk.
New York has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds statewide. The state’s projected numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and people in intensive care will be thousands short, Cuomo said.
“It is going to be a wave that, at any of these projections, will overwhelm the health care system,” the governor said, adding states need guidance from the federal government and approval for automated testing.
The governor outlined potential plans to identify additional and back-up health care staff, reserve doctors and nurses and ways to build more hospital capacity.
“We have 65 [in the ICU] today, and we only have 600,” Cuomo said. “You need thousands. You’re going to be thousands short. Thousands.”
In a letter Sunday, Cuomo called on President Donald Trump and the federal government to take comprehensive action to maximize hospital beds and available intensive care by deploying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its equipment and staff to retrofit existing facilities — such as military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers.
The governor also called for a uniform federal standard for when cities and states should shut down commerce and schools, or cancel events.
“You’re going to need ways to free up those 53,000 beds — you’re going to need to construct or retrofit physical buildings...acquire thousands of pieces of equipment like this,” Cuomo said. “A state can’t do that. I don’t have that workforce. I don’t have the resources, but even if I had the resources, I don’t have the physical capacity to turn SUNY dorms into hospitals in three weeks. I can’t. There’s only one workforce that can do that. It’s the Army Corps of Engineers.”
The state had 729 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday afternoon with 137 people — or about 19% of cases — hospitalized. Sixty-five patients are in the ICU with 46 intubated, Cuomo said.
Albany County has 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19, McCoy said in an updated statement Sunday afternoon — up from seven positive cases Saturday night.
The state tested 442 new people for the new coronavirus since Saturday night, and has tested 5,272 people in total since late February.
As of Sunday afternoon, the state has tested 2,242 people in New York City; 1,539 in Westchester County; 418 in Nassau County; 280 in Suffolk County; 195 people in Albany County; 173 in Saratoga County; 98 in Schenectady County; 56 in Rockland; 55 in Orange; 51 in Erie County; 38 in Dutchess; 32 in Putnam; 23 in Monroe; 12 in Greene; 11 each in Broome and Tompkins counties; nine in Delaware; five in Montgomery; two in Herkimer and Tioga counties, according to Cuomo’s office.
Cuomo directed nonessential state employees in New York City and Rockland, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties, which are the state’s main COVID-19 hotspots, to work from home for two weeks. All state Department of Motor Vehicles locations will operate by appointment only to limit crowds and person-to-person contact.
The state’s daily testing capacity increased by the hundreds Friday with the first drive-through mobile testing center in the city of New Rochelle, which has the nation’s largest cluster of the illness. A second mobile testing facility is slated to open in Long Island this week, which will help the state conduct at least 6,000 tests per day, in addition to the testing performed at the 28 public and private labs across the state, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Assemblywomanr Helene Weinstein, D-41, and Assemblyman Charles Barron, D-60, each tested positive for the virus Saturday. Both lawmakers have not been in Albany since the beginning of the month and are recovering at home.
The state Capitol in Albany is closed to visitors indefinitely, Cuomo said, but lawmakers are expected to come to work. The governor does not expect lawmakers to delay passing the state’s proposed 2020-21 executive budget by the April 1 deadline.
“If we can ask nurses to put on a HAZMAT suit and take blood, we can ask elected officials to sit at a desk and vote on a piece of legislation,” Cuomo said. “This is why you are in government. This is why you’re here...If you didn’t want to be here, you shouldn’t have run for office. If you didn’t want to fight the war, you shouldn’t have enlisted in the military.
“You’re elected officials — be smart,” the governor added. “There is no higher, more necessary form of public service than what we’re doing now. Do your job.”
Earlier this week, Cuomo issued an executive order prohibiting large, public gatherings of 500 people or more and reduced the legal seated occupancy of facilities such as arenas and theaters by 50%. The order did not include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, mass transit facilities, governmental buildings or small private businesses like bars and restaurants.
The governor encouraged private sector businesses and companies to adopt work-from-home strategies and voluntary closings.
“I’m asking them to aggressively consider voluntary closings to help reduce density as a social responsibility to protect their workforce,” Cuomo said. “We could consider mandatory actions later on.”
The state requires school districts to close for 24 hours and be thoroughly cleaned, but has not mandated school closings. The decision remains left to local superintendents, Cuomo said.
Nassau County mandated Sunday all of its schools be closed for at least two weeks starting Monday, County Executive Laura Curran said. Westchester County will declare a state of emergency tomorrow and will close its 44 school districts starting Wednesday, County Executive George Latimer said Sunday.
Cuomo believes New York City schools should be closed, he said Sunday, but expressed concern about continuing to feed students who rely on their school district for meals and impacting the workforce and state economy if schools are forced to close. Cuomo called on the Greater New York Hospital Association, the state health care workers’ and nurses’ unions and the state United Federation of Teachers union to form a plan to provide childcare to essential workers — especially health care workers — so they can continue to go to work.
“We need to design a plan where schools will remain functioning as childcare centers...where some teachers still work, provide child care services,” Cuomo said. “[To] find a geographically convenient location ...where we know our health care workers can still go to work, our first responders can still go to work and there’s a place that is qualified and safe for their children.”
Cuomo waived the requirement Friday for school districts to operate a minimum of 180 days to receive state aid. The National Guard is available to deliver food to students who rely on their school for meals.
More than 7,000 people have been quarantined in New York since COVID-19 first hit the state. No one placed under mandatory or precautionary quarantine has resisted isolation, the governor said.
By law, no city in the state can close down or quarantine without the governor’s approval, Cuomo said.
“I will not allow any quarantine of any city or any jurisdiction in the state, so that is not going to happen,” Cuomo said. “No one is talking about closing down a geographic location.”