ALBANY — New York state is reaching a grim milestone as the coronavirus death toll nears 1,000.
The number of deaths due to the virus is now 965, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday, a spike from the 728 the day before.
Nearly a quarter were among nursing home residents, where visitation is banned.
“Coronavirus in a nursing home can be like fire through dry grass,” Cuomo said.
New York now has 59,513 confirmed cases, more than half of them in New York City, according to the latest state data.
Statewide, 8,503 people are hospitalized, 2,037 of them in the ICU.
But in a glimmer of positive news, hospital discharges are increasing and the hospitalization rate is slowing, now doubling every six days as opposed to every two days in mid-March, Cuomo said.
Overall, 3,572 people have been discharged from hospitals, including “Patient Zero” in Westchester County, a New Rochelle lawyer who spent much of the month hospitalized in serious condition.
Cuomo conceded the latest projections show thousands of New Yorkers will ultimately die from the disease.
"I don't see how you look at those numbers and conclude that anything less than thousands will pass away,” Cuomo told reporters at his daily press briefing in Albany.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s most preiminant disease expert, said deaths nationwide could reach between 100,000 and 200,000, with millions potentially infected.
The federal government on Sunday extended social distancing guidelines to April 30, a decision Fauci called “a wise and prudent decision.”
Cuomo on Sunday urged health care providers statewide to brace themselves for a “rolling apex,” a wave beginning first in New York City and rippling out from Westchester County and Long Island before eventually reaching upstate.
The web of private and public hospitals across the state must work together as cases mount, he said, and form a “relief valve” once downstate hospitals become overwhelmed.
Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, he said, has been particularly stressed.
While the majority of cases are currently downstate, upstate hospitals will struggle once the peak shifts, he said, and New York City-area hospitals should prepare to reinforce that influx.
“No hospital is an island,” Cuomo said. “One hospital gets overwhelmed, the other hospitals have to flex to help that hospital and vice versa.”
Cuomo on Sunday also extended the stay-at-home order for non-essential state employees another two weeks to April 15, which covers two major holidays: Passover from April 8 to 16 and Easter on April 12.
To date, 76,000 health care workers have answered the state’s call to volunteer, as well as 12,000 mental health specialists providing services over teleconferencing software.
First responders, from nurses to police officers, are afraid, Cuomo acknowledged.
"But something is more important than their fear, which is their passion, their commitment, for public service, and helping others,” Cuomo said. “That's all it is. It's just their passion and belief in helping others.”
The state doesn’t have data on how many first responders have tested positive for the virus, the governor said.
There is no mandatory quarantine for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Cuomo said, despite President Donald Trump floating the concept before later backing off on Saturday night
The CDC has, however, issued a travel advisory for residents of those states, urging people not to travel domestically.
The advisory is consistent to what the three states are already doing, Cuomo said.
“This is not a lockdown,” Cuomo said. “This is travel advisory to be implemented by the states, in essence."
FIRST DEATH IN SARATOGA
Saratoga County has announced its first COVID-19 death on Sunday.
A 95-year-old woman who had tested positive died at Glens Falls Hospital on Friday, according to county officials.
The announcement brings total deaths in the Capital Region to three, including one each in Schenectady and Albany County.
Saratoga County reported 108 confirmed cases by Sunday.
Elsewhere, the number of confirmed cases in local counties is Albany, 205; Schenectady, 76; Rensselaer, 39; Montgomery, six; Schoharie, five; and Fulton, according to the state Department of Health.
Officials have noted true numbers are likely higher due to the declining availability of test kits.
In other updates:
- The state’s Wadsworth Lab has developed a new, less intrusive COV-19 test for COVID-19 conducted through a nasal swab and saliva sample.
- A new executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will allow schools to host free daycare programming.
- Private pharmacies have agreed to offer free home delivery to help reduce long lines for prescriptions, according to the governor’s office.