Cuomo chides New Yorkers for ignoring social distancing
New York’s governor said Sunday that he was exasperated people are still ignoring his social distancing orders, saying he’s still seeing people clustering in groups and acting like it was just another nice spring weekend.
“There is a density level in New York City that is wholly inappropriate,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, his voice rising. “This is just a mistake! It is a mistake! It is insensitive. It is arrogant. It is self-destructive. It’s disrespectful to other people and it has to stop and it has to stop now. This is not a joke and I am not kidding.”
The Democrat said city officials must come up with a plan immediately to prevent people from congregating in parks or elsewhere.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stopped short of closing playgrounds or parks Sunday but said police will start clearing out places that get too crowded. He advised people not to mix with other families and keep exercise brief and solitary.
“We will be enforcing this, but with understanding,” de Blasio said. “We will enforce through education. We will enforce with warnings.”
If people don’t act responsibly about using playgrounds, “we’ll have to at that point strongly consider shutting them down,” de Blasio said.
New York’s new rule banning people from congregating in groups doesn’t take effect until 8 p.m. Sunday, but some people were widely flouting the law in spirit Saturday in Brooklyn’s 320-acre Prospect Park. Packs of teenagers clustered around benches. Groups of people sprawled out on picnic blankets. A dozen men laughed and smoked in a circle.
Meanwhile, two blocks from the park, a woman wearing a mask staggered into a neighborhood hospital, coughing, wheezing and clutching her chest.
Nearly 2,000 people have been hospitalized in the state with the virus and 114 have died, Cuomo said. More than 15,000 have tested positive statewide, including 9,000 in New York City.
The state is putting out an emergency order requiring hospitals to come up with a plan to increase their capacity by at least 50% and cancel non-critical elective surgery, Cuomo said. He said the state currently has about 53,000 hospital beds but is expected to need 110,000 as the pandemic progresses.
Cuomo called on the federal government to immediately nationalize medical supply acquisition, saying states can’t manage it on their own.
“Currently when states are doing it, we are competing against other states. In some ways, we are savaging other states,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said President Donald Trump has moved ahead on voluntary partnerships with companies, but he could invoke the Defense Production Act and mandate companies to make masks, gowns, personal protective equipment and ventilators.
“If I had the power, I would do it in New York state,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the state desperately needs to acquire thousands of ventilators that will be needed to keep the sickest patients alive. It also needs millions of medical gowns and face masks to protect health care workers from getting infected. Masks, which previously cost 85 cents, are now selling for $7, Cuomo said.
On Tuesday, the state will start conducting trials of an experimental COVID-19 treatment with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Zithromax, Cuomo said.
“We are all optimistic that it could work,” he said.
RETIREMENT COMMUNITY DEATHS
A fourth resident has died of the coronavirus at a Long Island retirement community and health care center and 13 residents have tested positive for the virus.
An 89-year-old woman who was in hospice care for a separate medical condition died Friday night, officials at Peconic Landing in Greenport said. The other three who died were in their 90s and were in assisted living with underlying medical conditions.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
The largest coronavirus jail outbreak in the nation has been reported in New York City, with at least 38 people testing positive at the notorious Rikers Island complex and nearby facilities.
Another inmate became the first in the country to test positive in a federal jail.
Jacqueline Sherman, interim chairwoman of the Board of Correction, said 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees and 21 people in custody at Rikers and city jails have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week and at least 58 others were being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units.
More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States and there are growing fears that an outbreak could spread rapidly through a vast network of federal and state prisons, county jails and detention centers.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called on the state Sunday to suspend in-person voting and send every eligible voter an absentee ballot for the April 28 Democratic presidential primary.
“Let’s make it easier for every voter to cast their vote without spreading the coronavirus and jeopardizing public health,” James said in a statement. “Democracy should not be suspended if there is a safe alternative.”
The Erie County Board of Elections released a special absentee ballot application almost two weeks ago listing “public health emergency (COVID-19)” as an option for voting absentee in the special election to fill the open seat in the 27th congressional district. James said the executive order she’s seeking goes further by ensuring every eligible voter is automatically sent an absentee ballot.