Cuomo: Now is not a time for complacency; Mobile ‘hot spot’ testing site coming to Riverside

Coronavirus related deaths in New York reached another one-day high, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Another 779 COVID-19 related deaths were reported Tuesday, which brings the total number of deaths statewide to 6,268. To put the number in context, Gov. Cuomo noted that the number has far surpassed the 2,753 New Yorkers killed during the 9/11 attack.

The governor directed all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff in honor of lives lost to the virus.

“Deaths will continue to rise,” a somber Gov. Cuomo said, noting that it’s a “difficult” reality to contend with. “Every number is a face,” he said while a slideshow flashed photos of some New Yorkers who have died from the coronavirus.

April 8 marks exactly one month since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Suffolk County. There are now 17,008 confirmed cases in Suffolk — more than any state besides New York and New Jersey, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“It doesn’t feel like 30 days ago,” Mr. Bellone said during his afternoon briefing. “It feels like a lot longer.”

The death toll stands at 263 and Mr. Bellone said he expects the number to approach or surpass 300 by the end of Wednesday.

Despite the staggering death numbers, Mr. Cuomo said a dip in new hospitalization rates is indicative that the curve is beginning to flatten.

“There’s no doubt we are now bending the curve,” Gov. Cuomo said, offering a glimmer of hope despite announcing the highest single-day death toll yet. “The good news has a big caveat. We’re still in the midst of it. It is not a time to get complacent.”

Gov. Cuomo said the only way to continue flattening the curve is if New Yorkers are “rigorous” about social distancing.

Though statewide hospitalizations are down, there’s still an uptick in Suffolk County. There are approximately 1,585 people hospitalized and 517 ICU patients, according to Mr. Bellone. There are now 650 beds and 195 ICU beds available and the overall number of hospital beds stands at 3,322—that’s more than 1,000 additional beds since the outbreak began.

As Passover begins, Mr. Bellone ended his remarks with a bit of uplifting news: There have been 130 COVID-19 patients discharged from county hospitals over the last 24-hour span. “That’s more than we’ve seen on other days,” he said.

Officials also addressed the disparity that exists in minority communities statewide with regard to infection rate and access to testing. Suffolk County health officials yesterday announced they will launch free COVID-19 tests in hot spot communities, including Riverhead.

Statewide numbers that exclude New York City show that black New Yorkers account for 18% of COVID-19 related deaths and just 9% of the overall population. Latinos which make up 11% of the state population (out of NYC) account for 14% of the total deaths, according to the governor’s office.

“It always seems that the poorest people pay the highest price,” Gov. Cuomo said, pointing to Hurricane Katrina as an example. “The people standing on those rooftops were not rich, white people,” he said, calling for additional resources, testing and research in these communities.

“Are more public workers Latino and African American who don’t have a choice, frankly, but to go out there every day and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to the virus?” Gov. Cuomo asked. “Let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s learn from this moment.”

The governor also addressed a question we’re all asking: when will things go back to the way they were?

In his eyes, there is no return. “I don’t think we return to normal,” he said. “If we’re smart, we achieve a new normal.”

Here are some other major points we learned today:

• New Yorkers who have filed for unemployment will receive an additional $600 payment, which Gov. Cuomo said he expects the federal government to reimburse. “People need money now in their pocket,” he said.

Unemployment benefits have also been extended an additional 13 weeks, from 26 to 39 total weeks of eligibility.

• Mobile “hot spot” testing will begin in the parking lot of the county center in Riverside Friday. Mr. Bellone said additional testing in communities of color will help officials better understand the numbers, and effectively communicate how to slow the spread. Tests will be administered by HRH Care, he said. Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling 845-553-8030.

• All New Yorkers will be able to vote via absentee ballot in the June 23 primary. Earlier Wednesday, Bernie Sanders announced he would end his presidential bid, making Joe Biden the likely Democratic nominee.

• Gov. Cuomo announced a new social media campaign entitled ‘Who are you staying home for?’ to raise awareness about social distancing and flattening the curve. “We are by no means out of the woods,” he said. “If we behave differently, you will see those numbers change.”

• Mr. Bellone thanked President Donald Trump and Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) for a critical delivery of N-95 masks he said would provide “a real shot in the arm” to first responders and health care workers on the front lines of the crisis.

The shipment included 251,200 masks for Suffolk County and 100,000 for Northwell Hospitals west of Suffolk County, according to Mr. Zeldin’s office.

The county executive said the best way to honor these front line workers is to continue to stay home. “We have to see this through to the end,” Mr. Bellone said, adding that when Suffolk reaches the point where it has more supplies than needed, the county will return the favor and redistribute supplies to places around the country that will need it.