Parts of New York meet all the criteria to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process, while the Big Apple will likely remain shut down through June.
MANHATTAN (CN) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that some parts of his state could begin reopening as early as this week, but pointed to a need to scrupulously test and track all Covid-19 cases to prevent new outbreaks in America’s hardest-hit state.
“This can be a science,” Cuomo said of the pandemic Monday. “It can be measured … we want to demystify this entire issue.”
He called the test-and-trace strategy unprecedented and a “logistical nightmare” but said it is necessary to prevent more tragedy.
“You don’t know what the virus is doing unless you are testing,” Cuomo said in his daily Covid-19 press conference, this time in Irondequoit, New York, near Rochester.
Cuomo also congratulated himself and the people of New York for their work in curbing the spread of the virus, largely via strict stay-at-home measures.
He noted that early predictions showed the state could see as many as 120,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations, even though it only had 50,000 beds. Efforts in March and April were largely concentrated on building up hospital capacity.
“Thousands more people would have died” without social distancing, Cuomo said. “We made that happen. We changed that trajectory.”
But Cuomo and his Democratic colleague, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have faced criticism for a sluggish response even though the virus was likely to hit the New York metropolitan area, with its three major airports, hard.
As of Monday, the tragedy continued in New York: the state has so far counted 337,055 positive confirmed Covid-19 cases and 21,640 deaths, according to its own data, though both infection and fatality numbers are both likely higher.
It has been estimated that 50% to 80% of New York deaths could have been prevented if the city had shut down just weeks earlier than it did. The state of California imposed stay-at-home rules on March 19.
Meanwhile in New York, Cuomo repeatedly insisted he would not impose a lockdown. His eventual “pause” order did not go into effect until March 22. By that point New York state already had 15,000 cases — over 5% of all cases worldwide and about half of the U.S. total, according to The Guardian.
A sobering report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday also tallied “excess mortality” in New York City during the pandemic in an effort to more precisely track Covid-19-related deaths.
The CDC tracked 24,172 excess deaths — deaths beyond the number that would have normally occurred in a given time frame — in New York City between March 11 and May 2. Seventy-eight percent of those were confirmed or probable Covid-19 deaths, leaving 5,293 unaccounted for.
“The 5,293 excess deaths not identified as confirmed or probable Covid-19–associated deaths might have been directly or indirectly attributable to the pandemic,” the CDC said. Whether those remaining 5,293 deaths were from Covid-19 directly or resulted from “indirect impacts of the pandemic” remains uncertain, the agency noted.
During the pandemic, the mayor and governor have continued a years-long power struggle, now focused on who has authority to make shutdown and reopening decisions.
“I did one thing right as governor that I’m proud of” during the outbreak, Cuomo said. “I got the people involved.” He said that without buy-in from New Yorkers, the social distancing measures would not have worked.
“Unless people engaged and understood and bought into this, government was impotent,” Cuomo said.
One hundred and sixty-one people died of the virus Sunday, Cuomo said. The number is “still too high … but better than it has been,” he said. “All the arrows are pointed in the right direction.”
The state counted 488 new cases Sunday, Cuomo said, which was similar to the number on March 19 as the state entered the worst of its wave.
“We start a new chapter today in many ways,” said Cuomo.
On May 15, the statewide closure will end though New York City and surrounding areas likely will not reopen for a long time. Other regions of the state — the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley — meet all of New York’s seven criteria for moving to Phase I of the gradual reopening.
Meanwhile in Manhattan Monday, de Blasio said the city is currently performing between 13,000 and 14,000 diagnostic Covid-19 tests per day, aiming for 20,000 per day by May 25 and 50,000 a day in the next few months.
“I think it’s fair to say that June is potentially where we’re going to be able to make some changes” if the city’s progress against the virus continues, the mayor said. “We’ve got to keep bringing it back to the science and the data … got to guard against a boomerang.”