NEW YORK — Sixteen thousand New Yorkers could die from coronavirus before the pandemic scourge is defeated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, as the state’s death toll approached 2,000 and the city enacted new restrictions to curb the spread of the disease.
Speaking during his daily briefing from Albany, Cuomo made the dire projection based on a study from the Gates Foundation that estimates 93,000 Americans in total will die from the respiratory infection that is besieging the world.
The governor said the Gates Foundation tally should serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the country.
“That would mean that New York is only 16% roughly of the number of deaths,” Cuomo said. “I don’t even understand that, since New York is so much higher right now … but what that does say to the rest of the nation is this is not just New York.”
He added, “It’s a New York problem today. Tomorrow, it’s a Kansas problem. It’s a Texas problem. It’s a New Mexico problem.”
Still, the Gates Foundation’s estimate may be conservative.
Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, the top health advisers on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, rolled out another projection Tuesday night holding that between 100,000 and 240,000 people will die in the U.S. from coronavirus — even if strict social distancing protocols are maintained.
Cuomo reported that 391 New Yorkers died between Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,941, with the devastating count climbing steadily by the hour. At least forty-three of the overnight deaths were in New York City, according to the Health Department.
“How does it end?” Cuomo said. “The answer is nobody knows for sure.”
Statewide, Cuomo reported New York now has at least 83,712 cases, accounting for nearly half of all infections in the country. The city, which has emerged as the U.S. epicenter for the fast-spreading virus, had most of the cases — 45,707 as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
In response to the unthinkable death toll projections and the constantly rising case numbers, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new restrictions and initiatives Wednesday aimed at containing the virus and helping hospitals overcrowding with COVID-19 patients.
Cuomo ordered all New York City playgrounds to close after noticing that people have continued to congregate in them despite social distancing restrictions.
“You still see too many situations with too much density by young people. They can get it; they’re putting their lives at risk,” said Cuomo, whose own brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, has the virus.
The governor said he would still let parks remain open for now.
De Blasio, who has stressed for days that the city needs to expand its hospital capacity, said his administration had finalized plans to add 10,000 beds to public medical facilities. Another 10,000 beds will be set up at 20 hotels across the city that de Blasio’s administration will lease space in.
“It’s going to be furious and intense, but we’re going to get it done,” the mayor said at City Hall.
The city’s also planning more unconventional approaches to increasing bed capacity, including efforts mirroring the recent conversion of the Javits Center into a field hospital.
For instance, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will have as many as 750 beds ready by mid-April, de Blasio said.
Former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who retired in November, announced he was coming back to serve the city as a special adviser overseeing supply shipments for health care workers on the front lines of the war against the virus.
“While the toughest days of this crisis lie ahead, New Yorkers are resilient and will get through this by coming together,” O’Neill said in a statement.
Cuomo said more than 12,000 people with COVID-19 remain hospitalized in New York. Roughly 3,000 are in intensive care units, he said.
The surge in hospitalizations has resulted in hellish scenes at some medical facilities in the city, including at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where forklifts are loading bodies into refrigerated morgue trucks as the ICU overflows with patients.
Health care workers are calling out for help and say they are running out of critical personal protective equipment like face masks and gowns.
Cuomo has pleaded with the Trump administration to send more supplies and, while some shipments have been made, the governor says it isn’t enough.
“We’re never going to be the same again,” Cuomo said at his briefing. “We’re not going to forget what happened here.”
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