MANHATTAN (CN) — “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday on a morning that saw the state’s Covid-19 death toll mount past 10,000.
There are more confirmed cases of the virus in New York than in any other country outside of the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. State data shows more than 195,000 confirmed cases as of Monday, but the numbers do appear to be plateauing — for now.
Cuomo followed up his optimistic statement at the Albany press conference with warnings that New Yorkers must continue to abide by social-distancing rules and the guidance of public health experts.
“Do not reverse the progress that we have made in our zeal to reopen and get back to normal,” Cuomo said. “That’s going to be the challenge going forward.”
Pandemics do not have an on-off switch until there is a proven vaccine, the governor emphasized. But there will be smaller points of resolution in the next 12 to 18 months, the anticipated time frame for such a vaccine, Cuomo said.
Speaking in a conference call later with an all-Democratic panel of northeast governors, Cuomo announced a working group made up of public health and economic development officials for each state, as well as each governor’s chief of staff, aimed at reopening strategies. The states involved so far are New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Cuomo announced a few hours after the call that Massachusetts had joined, the first Republican-led state in the coalition.
The group “will start working immediately on designing a reopening plan,” Cuomo said. There is no timeline for productions from the group, though Cuomo said he wanted smart plans as soon as possible.
“Yes, we've never been here before,” Cuomo said on the call. “But that doesn't mean you can't ensure public confidence that you're doing everything you can to do it in a smart way, an informed way — guided by experts and data and science — and not in a political way. And I think working together, we can do that.”
Neither the Republican governor of Massachusetts nor nearby Vermont were on the call, but Cuomo said any regional governor who wanted to join the coalition would be welcome.
“The reality is the virus doesn't care about state borders, and our response shouldn't either,” Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said on the call, adding that her state was already working on screening people before they enter businesses and increased touchless technology. She is the only woman leader in the coalition.
Reopening is a “delicate balance,” Cuomo had said earlier in his press conference, comparing it to opening a valve. It will involve a recalibration of the essential-worker economy with more testing and more precautions, he said.
“And while you’re opening that valve, watch the meter,” Cuomo warned — the meter being the infection rate. He promised to follow expert advice for reopening rather than politics.
“I’m not interested in political opinions,” he said. “I’m interested in what experts say about this.”
A regional and coordinated plan makes the most sense, Cuomo said, comparing societal functions like schools and transportations to gears that must all turn at once.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was optimistic at his own Monday press conference, pointing to what he called the most crucial trio of numbers that spell improvement in the Big Apple’s Covid-19 crisis: the number of hospital admissions for suspected Covid-19 patients, the number of current ICU patients with suspected Covid-19, and the percentage of people tested for the virus who are positive. All three of those numbers need to be going down at the same time, the mayor said, cautioning there is a 48-hour lag in the data available.