Cuomo warns New York can’t handle ‘worst-case scenario’ of coronavirus outbreak
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) warned Thursday the state cannot handle the “worst-case scenario” of coronavirus infections and urged people to continue social distancing measures to slow the spread of the outbreak.
While officials are seeing positive signs in New York that indicate the outbreak may be slowing, including falling rates of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, Cuomo stressed that now is not the time to become complacent.
“We have done great things and we have saved lives because we have followed these policies,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing.
“The moment you stop following the policies, you will go right back and see that number shoot through the roof, and we are not prepared to handle the highest numbers in those projection models.”
New York has 53,000 hospital beds to treat COVID-19 patients, including 1,000 beds on the Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort and 1,700 at a field hospital built in the Javits convention center. But worst-case scenario models show the state could need between 110,000 and 136,000 beds at the peak of the outbreak.
About 18,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state right now, he said.
But it would be a mistake to interpret the slowing of the outbreak as a sign that people can go back to their normal lives, Cuomo said.
“We can’t handle the worst-case scenarios,” Cuomo said.
“It is essential we keep that curve flattened because we don’t have an option to handle the curve if it goes higher.”
It would be impossible to turn a 50,000-bed system into a 130,000-bed system, he added.
While the outbreak is slowing in New York, the state reported its highest single-day death toll on Thursday from COVID-19, with 799 fatalities, the third day in a row that number has climbed. At least 7,067 people have died of COVID-19 in New York since the outbreak started.
Deaths are a lagging indicator of how fast cases are spreading because those cases were likely diagnosed weeks ago.
Still, it’s a sobering statistic that the COVID-19 death toll is more than three times higher than the number of people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“This is so shocking and painful and breathtaking,” Cuomo said.
“There was no explosion, but it was a silent explosion that just ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil we saw on 9/11.”
Nationwide, at least 14,800 people have died of COVID-19, but some experts believe the number might be higher because of the lack of testing in some areas.
The slowing of the outbreak in New York comes as federal health officials revise their projections of how many people could die of COVID-19.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Thursday the death toll could be 60,000 instead of the initially projected 100,000 to 200,000.
That is an indicator that social distancing is working and the outbreak is slowing, he said.
“There are some glimmers of hope particularly when you look at the situation in New York,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Today.”
Federal health officials have warned that this week would be tough in terms of deaths all around the country.
“The mitigation, the physical separation, we’ve initiated is starting to have a real effect now. So we are hoping with cautious optimism that at the same time we’re in for a bad week, we’re going to start to see a turnaround,” Cuomo said.