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BROOKLYN, New York — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York state jumped by 1,763 overnight, bringing the total tally statewide to 4,152.
About a quarter of those cases are in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday morning. But, he cautioned, the startling jump is really a reflection of the state’s ramped up rate of testing.
Cuomo said that they have tested 22,000 people so far — and just 8,000 of those tests were carried out overnight. And still, he said, the number of confirmed cases is just a sliver of how widespread coronavirus actually is.
“There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus who we are not testing,” Cuomo said. “There are thousands and thousands of people who resolved, and never knew they had the virus.”
New York remains the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for the highest number of cases in the country. Cuomo said that the total number of confirmed cases nationwide was 10,248 as of Thursday morning. Nearly 100 people have died.
He also announced a new mandate designed to reduce population density, asking businesses to reduce their workforce in offices to 25%, down from 50% the previous day. That means 75% of the workforce, with certain exceptions, will be working from home.
Cuomo did not go as far as to call for a “shelter in place” — a possibility that was floated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this week, and then repeatedly shot down by the governor.
“Shelter in place is a term used in an active shooter context, or nuclear war protection. It means find a room in your house with no windows, where you would be free from smoke or gas,” said Cuomo. “Shelter in place is a scary term for people, especially when they don’t know what it means, and especially when you’re not doing what it means.”
Cuomo also acknowledged the palpable rumble of anxiety, and even panic, that has accompanied the spread of coronavirus.
“For me, this reminds me of 9/11. For one moment, that was inconceivable, changed everything, changed your perspective on the world, on safety,” said Cuomo. “Yesterday you were going to work, and going to the office party, today you’re at home. Kids are at home. You’re worried about health, and you’re worried about your job, and you’re worried about economics, and you’re dealing with personal issues, and darling with family issues, and it’s all happening at once.”
To counter some of those financial anxieties, Cuomo also announced 90-day relief on mortgage payments based on financial hardship. “That will be a real life economic benefit,’” he said. “It will also be a stress reliever for many families.”
Cuomo continued to stress that his biggest concern was that the COVID-19 caseload requiring hospitalization could overwhelm the medical system.
“This was diagnosed as a health care crisis, from moment 1,” said Cuomo. “This has always been about one thing: Reducing the rate of spread so the healthcare system can manage.”
He said that his administration was currently working on expanding current hospital capacity. There are 50,000 hospital beds statewide, most of which are in downstate New York, and the Department of Health was working on waiving regulations on bed capacities so that they can fit more beds into those hospitals.
Cuomo said that he met with the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday, and they’re working on locating sites across the state that can be expeditiously repurposed into healthcare facilities.
On Wednesday, he said that President Donald Trump had agreed to dispatch the USNS Comfort, a 1,000 bed hospital ship, to New York City’s harbor. However, later reports stated that the ship wouldn’t arrive for several weeks. Another hospital ship is headed for the West Coast.
Cover: A nearly empty Times Square due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, New York, NY, March 17, 2020. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have put severe restrictions in place such the banned gatherings of 50 or more people, ordered the closing of restaurants, bars, gyms and theatres to stop the spread of the virus through social contact. (Photo: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)