Cuomo says New York is 'past the plateau' as coronavirus hospitalizations continue to fall

Coronavirus new york
An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) wearing personal protective equipment walks out of the Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home during the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., April 17, 2020.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York is curbing the spread of the coronavirus, though the epidemic has killed more than 13,300 people in the state.

"If you look at the past three days, you could argue we are past the plateau and starting to descend," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily update from Albany on Saturday. "So we're not at the plateau anymore, but we're still not in a good position."

The total number of people hospitalized in the state dropped for the fifth straight day on Friday. There are 16,967 New Yorkers hospitalized with coronavirus, down 349 from Thursday, with 4,996 — a drop of 43 — in ICUs across the state.

Still, 540 New Yorkers died as a result of the virus on Friday, down from 630 the day before. On top of that, almost 2,000 people were admitted to the hospital on Friday, a figure Cuomo called "devastating" without the context of past admission rates at the peak of the outbreak.

Here are the other takeaways from Cuomo's daily update:

  • Despite the positive news, Cuomo said "we are barely stabilizing our public health system now," though there are enough hospital beds and healthcare workers to handle the load of patients.

  • Mask-wearing became mandatory for all New Yorkers where proper social distancing cannot be maintained on Friday night. Cuomo said masks are a small inconvenience with a "tremendous benefit."

  • On that front, Cuomo said the federal government is donating 1.5 million cloth masks to New York.

  • The R0, or infection rate, for the coronavirus is still at 0.9, meaning that, on average, an infected person will transmit the disease to less than one person. Cuomo reiterated that if reopening is done hastily, that rate can go up and the probability of a re-emergence of an epidemic-level outbreak will go up exponentially.

  • In order to prevent that, Cuomo called for strict test and trace systems.

  • But, as he previously said, acquiring the supplies needed for testing at scale is an uphill battle — Cuomo called it a "logjam" — with a key problem in accessing the reagents, or chemicals, private testing labs need.

  • Cuomo called on the federal government to fund and help procure the supplies needed for these diagnostic tests.

  • On top of testing, Cuomo said New York will need an "army" of state employees who can trace contacts, to see who infected people may have come into contact with and isolate them.

  • Cuomo said prisoners over the age of 55 who are due to be released in 90 days will have their releases expedited.

  • He also signed an executive order allowing marriages to be certified remotely.

  • Cuomo said state legislators are "working," but the likelihood of passing complex legislation like marijuana legalization is low.

  • "The emotion in this country is as high as I can recall," Cuomo said. "On every level, this is a terrible experience. It's disorienting. It threatens you to your core."

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