Cuomo: State Needs Millions of Tests to Reopen the Economy

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Millions of antibody and diagnostic tests would need to be conducted to allow New York State to re-start its economy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Cuomo made the remarks during his daily briefing where he provided the sobering news that another 777 state residents died Thursday from COVID-19-related illness, bringing the death toll to 7,844. It was the fourth consecutive day that more than 700 people passed away from the disease.

The good news is that for the first time since the pandemic began ravaging New York last month there was a net reduction of 17 COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state on Thursday.

There has been growing attention paid to reopening the country after President Donald Trump this week floated the possibility that he would like to do so by next month.

Cuomo said that the state’s lab is currently conducting 300 antibody tests a day and that number is expected to increase to 1,000 by next Friday and to 2,000 a day by the following week. Antibody tests determine who has had COVID-19, including those who were asymptomatic, and therefore likely immune to the virus and able to return to society. Diagnostic testing continues to determine which citizens are positive for the disease.

However, the tests will need to be mass produced in the millions before society can be reopened, Cuomo said, saying that he doesn’t want to shut down the state a second time. He called 2,000 tests a day “a drop in the bucket.”

“Even with our high capacity and high performance on testing, it’s still not enough,” Cuomo said. “It’s not enough if you want to reopen on a meaningful scale and reopen quickly, so the testing front is going to be a challenge for us.”

The governor called on the federal government to use the Defense Production Act to more quickly produce the millions of tests. Among those who would need to be tested are those looking to go back to work outside the home, healthcare workers and people visiting nursing homes, Cuomo said.

“We need an unprecedented mobilization where government can produce these tests in the millions,” he said. “New York State Department of Health is doing several thousand. We have nine million people we want to get back to work. You need more than several thousand tests per week if this is going to happen anytime soon.”

He plans to partner with New Jersey and Connecticut to impress federal officials and private industry to help produce the tests necessary that will be needed for the region and the nation.

Cuomo also used his briefing to implore New York’s congressional delegation to provide the state with more equitable funding in the next fiscal stimulus package. He said the state was shortchanged in the last legislation.

“Look at the need, look at where the cases are, look at where the damage has been done,” Cuomo said.

New York will be adding $200 million to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for 700,000 low-income households, the governor announced Friday.

He also said that Airbnb will contribute $2 million to help provide rooms in hotels at no cost to frontline healthcare workers, and will partner with 1199SEIU to offer housing to their workers through the crisis.

Various hotels in the New York metro area will be providing 800 hotel rooms for essential workers free of charge.

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