The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State surged this morning to 1,374, a 45% increase and the largest spike since the first case was reported in New York two weeks ago.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a somber tone today in his morning press briefing on the coronavirus crisis.

Based on modeling done by epidemiologists, the state expects the outbreak to peak in 45 days. 

Given the the current rate of spread of the disease in New York and the current hospitalization rate for people sickened by the disease, the governor said the state will need somewhere between 55,000 and 110,000 hospital beds— and as many as 18,600 to 37,200 ICU beds — for the number of people who will need hospital care at the peak of the outbreak.

The state has only 53,000 hospital beds statewide — and they are, on average, 80% occupied, Cuomo said. That leaves 10,600 available hospital beds in the state.

The state has only 3,000 ICU beds, the governor said, with 600 available as of Saturday.

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The state must do two things: stop or at least slow the spread of infection in order the “flatten the curve” — i.e. reduce the number of infections at the peak of the outbreak and increase hospital capacity.

The governor said the point of the “dramatic steps” taken yesterday is to slow down the spread of the virus by reducing the density of people in any given place.

At the moment, Cuomo said, “the curve is not flattening to a level we could sustain, which suggests you’re going to need more efforts to reduce the spread by reducing the density to flatten the curve.”

He said the state is exploring additional ways to accomplish that goal, which could include additional “dramatic closings,” such as orders to shut down nonessential businesses.  

“Italy go to the point where they closed down eveything but groceries and pharmacies,” Cuomo said. “Not today, but it is possible.”

The governor said he does not favor mass quarantines in geographic areas. 
“There are many steps before that, before you go to limiting individual movement,” he said.

Whatever the state decides to do it will do on a statewide basis and in coordination with the states of New Jersey and Connectict.

The governor has asked Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health and Ken Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospitals Association, to devise a plan for “surge capacity,” so that the state can meet the needs of the population at the peak of the outbreak. 

Cuomo said he asked them to devise ways to find more space in existing hospitals, even if it means dispensing with spatial rules and regulations that impose minimum area requirements.

“We have to change the head-set,” Cuomo said. “This is not how you normally do business,” he said. But this is not a normal time.

“What are the maximum numbers you can get into your hospital? What equipment do you need, what staffing?” 

Dowling and Raske are going to have a conference call with hospital administrators today, the governor said.

Cuomo said he has been having conversations with the President.

“I think the President was 100% sincere when he said he wanted to work together in a spirit of partnership,” Cuomo said. “His team has been on it.
They have been responsive late at night and early in the morning. Thus far they are doing everything they can do.“

Cuomo said he asked the President for help from FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers and that assistance will be coming.

“I want to say thank you. I appreciate it and they will have nothing but cooperation and partnership from State of New York,” Cuomo said. “We’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans. We are Americans, at the end fo the day. This is no time for politics. The President is doing the right thing in offering to step up for New York and New York will do the right thing in return.”

The governor spoke at some length about the emotional toll this situation is taking on everyone — not just the fear everyone has about what the future will bring for the health and well-being of your family and your financial stability, but also being deprived of the personal connection we need as human beings.

“There’s something in this lack of ability to connect — Don’t hug, don’t kiss, stay six feet away. We are emotional beings,” he said. “It’s important to connect.” 

But he urged everyone to put this time in context, as difficult as it is. This period of time is only a small portion of your life, the governor said.

“We will get through this.” He urged New Yorkers to “be a little more understanding, more comforting, cooperative, more compassionate. Understand the pressures that everyone is feeling and be considerate of those feelings.”

This is a character test for all of us individually and collectively as a society, Cuomo said. 

“What did you do at that moment when all around you lost their head,” he said, quoting Rudyard Kipling.

“Keep it all in focus,” Cuomo said.

He called on the image of the wheelchair-bound Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, as governor of New York, wheeled himself into the Red Room at the State Capitol where today’s briefing was taking place. 

Roosevelt governed in a dark time of our state’s and out nation’s history, during the Great Depression, Cuomo said. 

“Paraphrasing, he said things are going to get worse and worse before they get better and better and the American people deserve to hear it straight from the shoulder,” Cuomo said. “Tell the people the truth. Tell them the facts.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.