NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered non-essential businesses and schools across New York to remain closed through the end of the month, as the coronavirus claimed another 599 lives in the Empire State overnight.
In his daily briefing from Albany, Cuomo said he’s extending his “New York on PAUSE” executive order at least through April 29 in a drastic bid to slow the spread of the virus.
“I know that’s a negative for many, many reasons. I know what it does to the economy, but as I said from Day One, I am not going to choose between public health and economic activity,” Cuomo said.
The limited shutdown — which has brought the city that never sleeps to an eerie standstill — began March 22.
Cuomo’s “PAUSE” extension came as health officials reported that 599 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 between Sunday and Monday morning, bringing the state’s total death toll to 4,758 — accounting for nearly half of all fatalities in the U.S.
At least 130,689 New Yorkers have tested positive for the respiratory virus so far, Cuomo said.
The city — which is bearing the brunt of New York’s outbreak — reported 67,820 confirmed cases as of Monday at 9:30 a.m.
At least 219 of the deaths recorded between Sunday and Monday morning occurred in the city, according to the Health Department, meaning 2,475 people in the five boroughs have now fallen victim to the virus.
Health officials have cautioned that the number of infections in New York City is likely much higher than confirmed cases because many people can’t or won’t be tested.
Queens remains the city’s epicenter, with nearly 23,000 confirmed cases and 771 deaths as of Monday morning.
Despite the depressing tallies, Cuomo, a proud Queens native, suggested health experts are seeing a light at the end of New York’s dark tunnel, with the daily death toll staying “effectively flat” for the past two days.
“While none of this is good news, the flattening, the possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases we have seen,” Cuomo said.
The governor said the apparent plateauing is evidence that his social distancing directives are working.
“If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a high level,” he said. “We have to continue the social distancing.”
Citing second waves of coronavirus in Hong Kong and parts of South Korea, Cuomo continued, “There is a real danger in getting overconfident too quickly. This is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly.”
If their jobs allow it, New Yorkers can work from home under Cuomo’s “pause” orders.
Essential businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies and hotels, will remain open, though many operate with limited hours and capacity.
While the new stay-at-home orders are set to expire April 29, Cuomo could extend them again — and likely will — if the virus hasn’t receded by then.
As part of his aggressive effort to make New Yorkers stay inside, Cuomo said he was upping fines for violations of social distancing protocols from $500 to $1,000.
“You don’t have the right to risk someone else’s life,” Cuomo said, reiterating his grievance with young people seen gathering in large groups in city parks.
New York hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, and healthcare workers say they’re rapidly running out of emergency supplies like face masks and ventilators.
President Donald Trump gave Cuomo permission Monday afternoon to treat coronavirus patients onboard the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed naval hospital ship that arrived in New York last month.
“This means 1,000 additional beds staffed by federal personnel,” Cuomo tweeted after a phone call with Trump. “This will provide much-needed relief to our over stressed hospital systems.”
The gargantuan floating hospital has so far only accommodated non-coronavirus patients to allow city hospitals to focus mostly on fighting the virus.
Nearly 17,000 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 diagnoses in New York, Cuomo said. At least 4,501 of them are in intensive care, he added.
Even though the hospitalization numbers are high, Cuomo said they are, like the death toll, increasing at a slower daily pace.
“Again, it would suggest an overall flattening of the curve,” he said.
With New York’s coronavirus apex seemingly approaching, health experts are trying to gauge which state could next become the country’s epicenter.
New Jersey, the second worst-hit state in the nation, had nearly 38,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday. Michigan and Louisiana are also seeing their caseloads soaring by the day.
Nationally, there are more than 350,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — far more infections than any other country.
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