New York coronavirus hospitalizations keep falling, shutdown extended


(Reuters) – The number of people hospitalized for the novel coronavirus and related deaths in New York fell to their lowest levels in more than a week, adding to evidence that the hardest-hit state was controlling its spread, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

Cuomo also extended an order closing businesses and schools by two weeks until at least May 15 in coordination with other states in the region, and added details to mask requirements, saying New Yorkers should wear them on buses, taxis and trains.

Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on the pandemic, said the improvement in key metrics reflected social distancing efforts which had brought the state’s infection rate low enough to control the outbreak.

The governor said that a total of 17,735 people were hospitalized across New York because of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, down from 18,335 a day earlier and the lowest since April 6. Intubations and admissions to intensive care units also declined, he said.

“The good news is it means we can control the virus. We can control the spread,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. “And we did not know for sure that we could do that.”

But Cuomo noted that about 2,000 infected people were newly admitted to hospitals on Wednesday and that while deaths declined to 606, marking the lowest daily count in more than a week, the toll on his state was still significant.

“That is still continuing at a really, really tragic rate,” Cuomo said of the death tally, adding that there were 29 fatalities at nursing homes, which he called “ground zero” in the fight against the virus.

Yet Cuomo said there was room for optimism in how social distancing had lowered the infection rate to 0.9 across New York, meaning one infected person was causing less than one new infection.

Reflecting that confidence, Cuomo said New York would send 100 ventilators to New Jersey, a day after pledging to send 100 to Michigan and 50 to Maryland. Just a few weeks ago, Cuomo had been warning that a shortage of the breathing machines would cause deaths and was scrambling to secure more.

But Cuomo, who has formed a pact with governors in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to coordinate the reopening of their economies, said the earliest that would happen is May 15.

He said he would be looking at the infection rate and other metrics during the next month in weighing that decision.

“One month is a long time,” Cuomo said “What happens after that, I don’t know – we will see, depending on what the data says.”

Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis