NEW YORK — Schools will remain closed statewide through mid-April and the state’s first temporary hospital was completed in New York City on Friday as New York remains the nation’s epicenter for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The state had 44,635 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon — up from 37,258 Thursday. The state reported a total of 519 virus-related deaths Friday to Thursday’s 385.
Of the positive cases, 6,481 are hospitalized, or roughly 14.5%, with 1,583 patients in intensive care. Since the state outbreak began at the beginning of March, 2,045 patients have recovered and been discharged from the hospital.
Schools will remain closed statewide through April 15. Schools across New York were ordered closed March 18 through April 1 to be reassessed every two weeks. The state’s waiver was extended for school districts to receive state aid without holding physical classes for 180 days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked President Donal Trump for approval Friday to for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build four additional 1,000-bed temporary hospital facilities at The New York Expo Center in the Bronx, the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the College of Staten Island with a goal to open in early- to mid-April.
The state is also preparing college dormitories and hotels for emergency hospital beds, staffing, equipment and ventilators before the virus apex, or peak, hits New York within the next three weeks. The state needs 140,000 hospital beds, but has 53,000.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan was completed Friday.
“I want to have one in every borough... so everybody knows downstate, which is where the essence of the density is right now, that everyone equally is being helped and is being protected,” Cuomo said during a press briefing at the Javits Center on Friday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to construct temporary medical centers at SUNY College at Old Westbury, SUNY Stony Brook and the Westchester Convention Center in White Plains.
New York has 14,000 extra ventilators stockpiled throughout the state, Cuomo said, but none have been deployed because hospitals have not experienced a shortage to date.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other state experts projected several weeks ago New York would need 30,000 ventilators by the pandemic’s end. Trump questioned the figure Thursday and said he does not believe the state will need that many.
“I hope we don’t need 30,000 ventilators,” Cuomo said Friday. “I don’t operate on opinion. I operate on facts, I operate on data... on numbers and projections. I make decision based on the data and the science, and we’re following the data and the science.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic $2 trillion emergency COVID-19 bill Friday afternoon. Senate lawmakers passed the measure late Wednesday night. The plan cuts financial-assistance checks to middle-class and lower-income Americans and increases unemployment benefits to more workers to be paid for four months. The aid would also serve as relief for businesses and state governments.
For multiple days this week, Cuomo criticized federal lawmakers for passing a bipartisan $2 trillion bill to fight the pandemic he said provides insufficient aid to state governments. New York’s state government will receive about $5 billion from the federal emergency bill, Cuomo said, which can only be used for COVID-19 response efforts and does not help the state’s projected 10 to $15 billion budget shortfall.
“The federal government promised they would provide aid to state governments; they passed a bill that didn’t do that,” Cuomo said, adding New York will be forced to cut education aid — the state’s No. 1 expense.
“You can’t spend that which you don’t have,” the governor said. “When they didn’t give the states funding... all they did was cut the education budget for the state of New York, which is a tragedy.”
U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, voted in favor Friday of the third federal COVID-19 relief package, which contains two of the freshman congressman’s provisions including the Small Business Repayment Relief Act — which provides $17 billion in loan relief for small businesses throughout the pandemic — and $9.4 billion in disaster relief for small and mid-sized farmers.
“Coronavirus presents a challenge unlike anything our nation has seen before,” Delgado said in a statement Friday. “This legislation includes critical support for every American worker, expanded unemployment insurance, much-needed child nutrition to keep our young people from going hungry while out of school and funding to support our hospitals as well as health care and other essential workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.
“New York has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and this legislation is by no means a panacea, but today, the House took important, bipartisan steps to support those in need.”
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-21, also voted to pass the relief bill.
“During this unprecedented public health crisis, I have prioritized support for our hospitals, health care workers, small businesses and families in the North Country as we combat and ultimately beat COVID-19,” Stefanik said in a statement Friday afternoon. “I strongly advocated for this economic rescue package focused on North Country small businesses and families in need of immediate relief, and today, Congress came together to deliver that relief for the American worker. I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to overcome this public health crisis and the economic challenges and uncertainty that have come with it.”
Cuomo also announced Friday the state will shut down all non-essential construction sites, excluding required or emergency construction, such as roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing and homeless shelters, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Cuomo thanked health care workers, first responders, the National Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their life-saving work in this trying time.
“This is a different beast that we’re dealing with — this is an invisible beast, an insidious beast,” Cuomo said. “This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks... So I say, my friends, that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus’ ass, that’s what I say. And we’re going to save lives and New York is going to thank you. God bless each and every one of you.”
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