Keeping Schools Closed, Cuomo Reiterates Power of Lockdown

MANHATTAN (CN) — Schools in New York state will remain closed for another two weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday, continuing to waive the mandate that schools must operate for 180 days a year, as Covid-19 cases in the state continue to climb.

The United States now has more cases of the disease than any other country in the world, and cases in New York — now at 44,000 — far exceed those in any other state. Five hundred and nineteen New Yorkers have died.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a Tuesday news conference against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Cuomo nevertheless repeated Friday a bit of good news he first announced earlier in the week: the rate at which confirmed Covid-19 cases in New York are doubling appears to be slowing. Previously, cases were doubling every two and a half days, Cuomo said, and now they double every four days.

“It’s still doubling,” he said. “It’s still bad news because it means you’re still moving up towards an apex, right, because that number still goes up. But there is good news.”

Cuomo spoke at the Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan, which has been rapidly converted to a field hospital. He emphasized that social-distancing efforts remain crucial.

“That’s what this is all about,” he said. “Not overwhelming hospital capacity and, at the same time, increasing the hospital capacity that we have. So if it does exceed those numbers — which it will, in most probability — we have the additional capacity to deal with it. Flattening the curve.”

Cuomo repeated estimates that New York’s apex of cases will hit in about three weeks, and the state will need about 140,000 hospital beds. As of Friday, he said, it has 53,000. The governor touted the efforts of the National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to create emergency hospitals.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday the city has enough supplies to weather the deluge of Covid-19 patients until April 5. He also pushed back against the desire expressed by President Trump to reopen the country by Easter. Spreading the notion that the U.S. epicenter will have cooled by then, de Blasio said, is “unfair” to Americans.

“It’s not true, it’s not accurate, and it’s going to mislead people and raise false hope,” he said.

De Blasio tweeted Friday that Tesla CEO Elon Musk will donate hundreds of ventilators to New York City and state. On Wednesday, Musk had tweeted that the Tesla factory in Buffalo would begin producing the equipment.

Half of New York City residents will eventually be infected with the virus, de Blasio predicted Friday.

New Jersey follows New York with 6,876 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins data, and California has 4,040. Cuomo emphasized, however, that New York is conducting more tests than any other state. In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont said Thursday that the state would actually decrease testing, giving priority to the vulnerable and to health care workers. Because of a lack of personal protective equipment, Lamont said, the state would prioritize the safety of medical professionals treating the very sick rather than using the gear to help conduct more tests.

Lamont said as of Thursday the state had 125 Covid-19 hospitalizations, with 21 fatalities, mostly of people over age 70.

“We are battling a deadly virus,” Cuomo said Friday. “Is there an intrusion on daily life? Yes. Is there an intrusion on movement? Yes. Is there an intrusion on the economy? yes. But what’s on the other side of the scale is literally saving lives. And that’s not rhetorical, that’s not drama.”

Members of the National Guard sat at the briefing in carefully spaced chairs, and Cuomo extended his thanks to them.

“This is going to be a long day,” he said. “And it’s going to be a hard day, it’s going to be an ugly day. And it’s going to be a sad day. This is a rescue mission, and your mission is to save lives.”

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