New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded an optimistic tone about the state’s battle with the CCP virus pandemic on April 6, pointing to downward trends in key hospital metrics as evidence that the state may be “flattening” the statistical curve that’s oft-employed to visualize the effects of the outbreak.
For five straight days, health care facilities in the Empire State have discharged more COVID-19 patients than they have admitted new ones. The daily numbers for patients admitted to intensive care units and those placed on ventilators dropped for the second straight day.
“Those are all good signs and again would suggest a possible flattening of the curve,” Cuomo said during a daily briefing on April 6.
Using the latest reports from hospitals, the state now expects it may need only about 20,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients when the pandemic peaks—less than a fifth of the 110,000-bed projection that Cuomo had relied on previously.
“It’s not settled yet because as we are going day by day,” Empire State College President Jim Malatras, one of Cuomo’s pandemic advisers, said at the briefing. “But this could suggest that we are indeed potentially at the apex, or beginning to be at the apex at this moment.”
The state reported that 599 people died from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, on April 5. That is only slightly up from the total reported for the day before and “virtually flat for two days,” Cuomo said.
“While none of this is good news, the flattening—possible flattening of the curve—is better than the increases that we have seen,” Cuomo said.
Although the numbers suggest that New York may be at a turning point, the state remains the worst-hit by the pandemic in the nation, with more than 130,000 confirmed cases and 4,758 deaths as of April 5. The federal government has rushed personnel, equipment, and supplies to the state, which reported an alarming rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout most of the month of March.
Most of the statistics now appear to be leveling off, although the daily number of confirmed cases is still rising. Cuomo reported 8,658 new CCP virus infections for April 5, up roughly 3 percent from the day before.
The governor noted that even if the state has reached the apex of the outbreak, it’s too early to tell whether the metrics would plateau and remain at the same high daily level or if the figures will begin to decline. If the pandemic’s apex of the pandemic’s curve plateaus, the state’s hospital system may remain under stress, he said.
“If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a very high level and there’s tremendous stress on the healthcare system,” Cuomo said. “Staying at this level is problematic.”
The governor noted that the federal assets deployed to New York City will help relieve the pressure on the health care system. At the governor’s request, President Donald Trump approved the use of the temporary 2,500-bed hospital built by the Army Corps of Engineers at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center solely as a facility for COVID-19 patients.
Cuomo has also asked Trump to convert the 1,000-bed hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to treat CCP virus patients.
Despite the positive signs, Cuomo warned that this isn’t the time to relax the social distancing restrictions aimed at keeping people from transmitting the disease. He ordered bigger fines against violators.
“The numbers look like it may be turning. ‘Yay, it’s over!’ No, it’s not. And other places have made that mistake,” he said as deaths in the United States climbed past 10,000, with more than 360,000 confirmed infections.
The state has been averaging just under 600 deaths per day for the past four days. As grim as that number is, the roughly steady daily totals are seen as a positive sign.
At the same time, Cuomo ordered schools and nonessential businesses to remain closed until the end of the month, announced he is doubling the fines for social distancing rule-breakers to $1,000, and criticized New Yorkers for being out in parks over the weekend, calling it “wholly unacceptable.”
New York City is at the epicenter of the state’s outbreak. The city has reported more than 3,100 deaths. Mayor Bill de Blasio has projected that the city will need additional medical personnel to handle the flow of patients.
“More and more, the challenge is going to be personnel,” de Blasio told reporters outside a surgical gown manufacturing facility. “We need these supplies, but we also need heroes to wear them.”
More than 90 percent of Americans are under stay-at-home orders similar to New York’s. Eight states were still holding out on imposing such restrictions as of April 6.
Stocks rallied on Wall Street and around the world on the news out of the United States and other countries such as Italy and Spain. The major indexes closed up more than 7 percent.
In neighboring New Jersey, the state with the second-highest number of cases and deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy told a briefing, “Our efforts to flatten the curve are starting to pay off.”
There was a 12 percent per day increase in positive cases on April 6; that compares to a 24 percent increase on March 30.
All told, New Jersey has confirmed more than 41,000 cases and more than 1,000 CCP virus-related deaths.
If social distancing and hand washing guidelines are relaxed, a surge of cases would overwhelm the health care system with “disastrous” results, Murphy warned.
A report from a federal watchdog agency found that three out of four U.S. hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. And some places, such as Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, are predicting that cases won’t peak until May or well into the summer.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reported the death of a newborn girl born prematurely after her mother contracted the disease and was put on a ventilator. Louisiana, a state where New Orleans hosts millions of tourists yearly, had over 500 deaths.
The CCP virus is spread by droplets from coughs or sneezes. For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as a fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia. Over 270,000 people have recovered worldwide.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.