The Examiner

Schools, Non-essential Businesses to Remain Closed Until April 29

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All schools and non-essential businesses will remain closed through Apr. 29 in hopes the state can mitigate the flood of COVID-19 cases that has killed more than 4,700 New Yorkers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Cuomo also urged local governments to crack down on violators to the state’s social distancing protocol by doubling maximum fines from $500 to $1,000. Crowds in parks have been a problem for authorities, particularly in New York City, when there has been good weekend weather, he said.

The governor extended the New York PAUSE campaign to nearly the end of the month and warned against becoming complacent.

“I know that’s a negative for many, many reasons,” Cuomo said. “I know what it does to the economy, but as I said from Day One, I’m not going to choose between public health and economic activity because in either event public health still demands that we stay on pause, with businesses closed and schools closed, whether we’ve hit the apex or whether we haven’t hit the apex. You have to do the same thing.”

There have been statistical indicators that the pandemic may be at or near its peak in New York as much as three weeks ahead of schedule, even as the death toll climbed to 4,758 through Sunday. On Sunday, there were 599 additional deaths. Last Friday was the state’s deadliest day since the crisis began with 630 COVID-19-related deaths followed by a drop to 592 on Saturday.

“This could suggest that we are indeed potentially at the apex, or beginning to be at the apex at this moment,” said Dr. James Malatras, a longtime Cuomo aide who is not president of Empire State College.

Another hopeful sign was that new hospitalizations dropped precipitously to 358 on Sunday, which followed a decline to 574 on Saturday. Each of the previous seven days before that saw daily new hospitalizations at over 1,000.

The total COVID-19 hospital population in the state through Sunday was 16,837, a relatively small increase from 16,479 from the day before.

However, Cuomo said that if mitigation measures are lifted too early that could mean another spike, which has happened in Hong Kong and South Korea.

Statewide, there have been just over 130,000 positive cases, with the numbers on Long Island accelerating. Nassau and Suffolk counties have had 15,610 and 13,487 cases, respectively, through Sunday. Westchester was at 14,294.

There have now been 211 Westchester residents who have died from the disease, County Executive George Latimer said. He has authorized that flags be flown at half-staff on county property and there will be a ceremony to honor those who have died from COVID-19

Latimer said Monday that Westchester has also received a refrigerated trailer that will be used as a supplementary morgue to accommodate the rising number of bodies. It will be housed in Valhalla, he said.

On Monday, Cuomo saved his biggest salvo for those who have been violating the state’s social distancing protocol. He said he understood that people wanted to get outside on nice days, but characterized their actions as selfish and putting healthcare workers and the healthcare system at risk.

“If I can’t convince you to show discipline for yourself, then show discipline for other people,” Cuomo declared. “If you get infected, you infect someone else, you go to an emergency room, you put a burden on all sorts of other people who you don’t know, and who frankly, you don’t have the right to burden with your irresponsibility.”

Cuomo said the hospital system remains stressed with healthcare providers already using some ventilators for two patients along with BiPAP machines for others who need a smaller thrust of air.

On Saturday, Cuomo announced that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown sent 140 ventilators from her state and New York procured 1,000 ventilators from China.

Despite calls in Westchester from some residents to close county parks and golf courses, Latimer has resisted. He said that if there are violators they will be dealt with.

“If you have 85 percent of the people following the rules, 15 percent not following the rules, enforce the rules for the 15 percent,” Latimer said.

On Monday, Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced that all county parks there would be closed effective 6 a.m. on Tuesday. The closure will be re-evaluated every two weeks.

In other developments, Cuomo said Monday he planned to ask President Donald Trump to use the U.S naval ship Comfort for COVID-19 patients, which is docked in Manhattan. The ship was initially sent to New York to handle non-COVID-19 cases, but because of the sharp slowdown of activity, there are fewer patients going to the hospital for other reasons, he said.

The 2,500-bed temporary hospital at the Javits Center in Manhattan has already been approved by the federal government to take COVID-19 patients.

Latimer said that the 120-bed makeshift hospital at the County Center in White Plains is expected to be ready to accept patients by Apr. 17.

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