Coronavirus deaths jump in New York, but governor says social distancing ‘is working’

Picture of nurse at hospital

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Nurse Cho Lee (left) looks out from a patient’s room on the Covid-19 floor that was recently opened at Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco on Monday, April 6, 2020. Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The governor of the state with the largest coronavirus outbreak said Tuesday that hospitalizations may be leveling off and social distancing “is working” — and people need to keep doing it.

“Right now, we are projecting we are reaching a plateau in the number of hospitalizations,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday. “We have to stay disciplined. We have to be smart. We have to be safe. … We do that by staying at home.”

Cuomo’s comments come as the US coronavirus death toll exceeds 11,000 and as health officials have said parts of the country that leaned in heavily to social distancing measures may be seeing a slowdown in the growth of coronavirus cases.

Cuomo offered mixed news: New York on Monday had its largest one-day increase in deaths for the state. But he said this was a lagging indicator, because often those who have died were hospitalized the longest.

Furthermore, the state’s three-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations, and the daily intensive-care admissions, are down, he said.

New York has reported more than 138,800 positive cases — more than a third of the more than 378,200 coronavirus cases in the US, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

“I know (social distancing) feels like a lifetime,” Cuomo said, but “it is working.”

“That’s why you see those numbers coming down. If we had the same rate of interaction (from before stay-at-home orders) those rates would be going up.”

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh warned cases in his city were just starting to spike — 33% of the city’s 2,035 cases were diagnosed in the last three days, he told CNN Tuesday.

“This is not the time to lax on any rules, as far as stay at home orders,” Walsh said. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

The majority of people in the US are “doing the right thing” by staying home and following other mitigation measures to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday.

“I’m seeing mitigation work,” Adams said. “I know I’ve said it a couple times with Washington and with California. Their public health officials there should be applauded because they’ve given us the blueprint for how we deal with this and the rest of the country.”

Recent developments

• Nearly 20% of the New York Police Department’s uniformed workforce were out sick as of Monday. At least 12 members have died of a suspected coronavirus case, the department says.

• Major League Baseball says it is trying to work through plans to get back to playing, including possibly having games at a central location, once the coronavirus pandemic has improved.

• Wisconsin is holding its primary election Tuesday despite the pandemic. The US Supreme Court allowed the vote, but a dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the decision “boggles the mind.” Adams, the surgeon general, told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday that Wisconsin voters should maintain distances of 6 feet from others and wear face coverings as they go to the polls.

• Michigan’s largest health care system, Beaumont Health, has about 1,500 of its more than 38,000 employees staying home with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, spokesman Mark Geary said Tuesday.

• Another large Michigan health care system, Henry Ford Health System, says 734 staff members — or 2.1% of its workforce — has tested positive for COVID-19 since it started tracking their status on March 12.

Model predicts fewer people will die, compared to previous estimates

An influential University of Washington model now predicts fewer people will die and fewer hospital beds will be needed, compared to its estimates from last week.

But it assumes social distancing measures — like closing schools and business — will continue until August.

The model predicts the virus may kill more than 81,000 people in the United States over the next four months, with just under 141,000 hospital beds being needed. That’s about 12,000 fewer deaths — and 121,000 fewer hospital beds — than the model estimated on Thursday, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine says.

President Donald Trump warned Americans last week to prepare for a “painful” two weeks ahead as he extended nationwide distancing measures and acknowledged the severity of the virus.

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading health official and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Monday that with continued mitigation efforts, there is potential to lower the projected US death toll from 100,000.

“I don’t think anyone has ever mitigated the way I’ve seen people mitigate right now. It’s never happened in this country before. I am optimistic. Always cautiously optimistic,” Fauci said.

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