ALBANY — The COVID-19 numbers in New York remain high but continue to improve, with another net decrease in hospitalized patients reported Wednesday.
The situation has reached the point that Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who 12 days earlier spoke of sending the National Guard to remove ventilators from upstate hospitals and truck them to overwhelmed downstate hospitals — announced Wednesday that the state will give 100 of the life-saving machines to Michigan and 50 to Maryland.
Statewide, 213,779 people had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning and 11,586 had died. That’s 11,571 more positive tests and 752 additional deaths in a 24-hour period.
There were 2,253 new hospitalizations, but a greater number of patients had recovered sufficiently to be discharged. So the net hospital census was down again, and the three-day average — a more meaningful statistic than a single day — also was lower.
“Basically, the health care situation has stabilized,” Cuomo said. “The fears of overwhelming the health care system has not happened, thanks to the phenomenal front line workers. Thanks to all the additional capacity that the hospital system created.”
To keep the progress going, he ordered all New Yorkers to wear masks anytime they’re within six feet of another person in public, starting in three days.
Cuomo also discussed the end result of all this progress: restarting the state’s economy, which he ordered into hibernation in mid-March to slow the spread of disease. It will be a phased reopening, he said, with businesses that are most essential and pose the least threat of spreading the disease allowed to reopen first.
“So that is almost a business-by-business evaluation that has to go on,” he said.
“You basically have a matrix where the lower risk of infection spread and the higher nature of essential services are the businesses that you would start prioritizing, right? So that’s how we will inform our economic reopening as we’re being guided by the testing-tracing and as we’re making sure we’re not jeopardizing the success we’ve made in handling the public health issue. That’s the whole outline, the whole vision from here to 18 months.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuyerville, offered insight to her priorities during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. She said restarting the economy needs to be a regional effort. Cuomo has said the same thing, but has defined regional as a multistate cooperative effort. Stefanik wants it to have local input as well, and wants Vermont to be included in the multistate effort. “We need to ensure the unique needs of upstate New York are met,” she said.
- Stefanik continues to hear cries of distress from dairy farmers, some of whom are dumping milk for lack of customers; she’s part of a bipartisan push in Congress to provide assistance.
- A reporter asked how unemployed workers making more money through combined state and federal unemployment assistance than they did at work will be incentivized to return to work. Stefanik said she’s heard this concern from small business owners, and there’s a balance to be struck, but her priority right now is working families. “That safety net during this crisis is very important,” she said.
- She’s worried about the large seasonal economy in her district. These businesses are usually ramping up for the critical summer season now, and could miss much of their income for the year. Also, the baseline datapoint used for federal assistance to businesses was in winter, which is meaningless for a summer-only business.
- She feels those convicted of nonviolent offenses should not be released from prison during the crisis to reduce risk of contagion. Her concern with the federal prison in Ray Brook was inadequate communication with the outside community and with hospitals, and that’s been addressed.
- She has communicated to the Trump administration the need for more COVID testing in rural areas.
In other developments Wednesday related to the COVID-19 crisis:
- Albany County reached 548 confirmed cases of the virus through Wednesday morning. Elsewhere in the Capital Region, Fulton County had 24 confirmed cases, Montgomery County 32, Rensselaer County 124, Saratoga County 227, Schenectady County 237 and Schoharie County 20. Albany County reported four new deaths.
- CDPHP and the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club announced that the 2020 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge had been postponed to Sept. 17. Registration has been suspended and previously paid fees will be refunded. Registration is tentatively scheduled to resume in mid-June, depending on the situation and the guidance of city and state leaders.
- Pioneer Bank Foundation said it would donate at least $100,000 to charitable organizations in the greater Capital Region that are assisting people impacted by COVID-19. These will include community healthcare organizations, food pantries, emergency housing providers, and other services that support the health and well-being of local children and families. Anyone who’d like to contribute can go online at www.pioneerbanking.com/foundation.
- CDTA said all its bus drivers will blast their horns twice at 3 p.m. Thursday, joining transit agencies across the country in “Sound The Horn,” a tribute to the transportation workers who continue to provide an essential community service during the pandemic, at risk to their own health.
- The Capital Region Chamber is conducting Phase 2 of its COVID-19 Business Impact Survey. Hundreds of businesspeople responded to Phase 1, and the Chamber wants additional input so it can prioritize communications, better support impacted businesses and help business owners access capital and relief programs. The survey is online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CRCPHASE2.
- SUNY Adirondack waived its application fee and increased the pool of scholarship money available for the 2020-2021 academic year. The privately funded scholarships range from $250 to full tuition and are awarded to eligible new and returning students based on specific criteria determined by individual donors.
- Facing an anticipated deficit of $15.8 million, The College of Saint Rose said it will furlough 61 employees through June 29; reduce non-union employees’ salaries by 5 to 10 percent starting May 6; and reduce the number of vacation days staff can carry over.
- Catholic Charities and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York said they will host a mass food distribution for the needy starting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Albany Diocese Pastoral Center, 40 N. Main Ave., Albany.
- Albany County and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center, addressing the disproportionate impact of the disease on minority communities, unveiled a mobile testing partnership targeting these communities and individuals who lack means of transportation.
- Soft-Tex said it would donate 10,000 antimicrobial face masks to Capital Region organizations near its Waterford facility.
- The Empire BlueCross Foundation donated $15,000 to support the meal delivery program run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area. The effort currently provides 2,200 daily meals to youths at 11 housing locations in Albany and Rensselaer County; the donation will help boost capacity.
- The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York said it has created a Legal Line (833-628-0087) and a Legal Information Web Page (https://www.lasnny.org/coronavirus-information/) to help low-income people in its 16-county service area deal with the COVID crisis.
- The Colonie Planning and Economic Development Department launched a survey to assess the impact of the pandemic on the town’s large business community. The online survey will help the Colonie Planning and Economic Development Department, Local Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency plan for the town’s economic recovery from the crisis.
- Albany Medical Center, which has been the target of employee complaints about limited availability of masks and other personal protective equipment, said it would be able to comply with Cuomo’s order that businesses equip their public-facing employees with masks, though not every mask will be the top-shelf N95. The region’s largest hospital goes through 60,000 to 140,000 masks a week but recently took delivery of 150,000.
- State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said New York ended the fiscal year with $8.9 billion cash-on-hand March 31, $2.4 billion more than projected. However, due to the economic shutdown, it will face a significant shortfall as soon as next month, DiNapoli said.