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Cuomo touts extensive Covid-19 testing as Erie County cites shortage

New York State has conducted more tests for Covid-19, by far, than any other state in the country and has performed more such tests on a per-capita basis than China or South Korea.

But as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo touted those figures at his latest news conference on the novel coronavirus outbreak, Erie County officials say they have run out of the tests they need.

Cuomo on Saturday said officials have processed 45,437 Covid-19 tests statewide, nearly as many as the next two states – California and Washington state – combined.

"The more tests you take, the more positives you find," Cuomo said. That is New York's mission, he said, because then those infected patients and the people who came into contact with them can be quarantined.

"Our goal is to find positive cases," he said.

New York as of Saturday morning has 10,356 Covid-19 cases – half the national total – with 3,254 of them new since Friday. About 15% are hospitalized.

The vast majority are in New York City and its suburbs.

"The virus spreads in density," Cuomo said, adding this crisis will take months, not weeks, to pass.

The governor did not provide an update on the number of coronavirus-related deaths.

Erie County as of Saturday early afternoon has 50 confirmed cases, more than half of which are in Buffalo and Amherst, and no reported deaths related to the virus. Niagara County has nine as of Saturday, with five new cases reported Saturday.

Three of the eight counties in Western New York still don't have a confirmed case: Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Orleans counties.

But Erie County officials recently said they were running out of Covid-19 tests and made an urgent plea for additional tests. Some are expected to arrive this coming week.

In his nearly hourlong news conference in the State Capitol, Cuomo urged the public to recognize the severity of the pandemic and to adhere to restrictions the state has set on commerce and daily life.

He offered reason for hope, but he blasted young people for violating limits set on public gatherings that are meant to control the spread of the virus.

About 54% of the state's Covid-19 confirmed cases are among 18- to 49-year-olds.

"It has to be stopped, because you are endangering people," said Cuomo, noting the issue is particularly evident in New York City. He planned to visit public spaces later today to see the problem firsthand.

Other developments from the news conference:

  • Medical supplies: Cuomo said the state has found 2 million N95 face masks it will purchase and distribute to hospitals, primarily in New York City and on Long Island. He said upstate hospitals have access to enough masks. The governor said the masks typically cost 80 cents each but now are $4 because of "price gouging." He said the state has found an additional 6,000 ventilators but the need is still great for ventilators, hospital gowns and other supplies.
  • Hospital capacity: The state has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up four field hospitals, each with 250 beds. And the state is exploring using several sites downstate, including the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and SUNY Stony Brook, for additional hospital beds on an emergency basis. Cuomo wants to boost capacity from 50,000 to 75,000 beds.
  • Hoarding: Cuomo chastised shoppers for buying up more food and other household supplies than they reasonably can use. "There's no reason to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper. There really isn't," he said. "And anyway where do you even put 100 rolls of toilet paper?"
  • Mental health: The state is asking psychologists and therapists to volunteer their services to treat people through phone calls, video chats and other electronic methods.
  • Evictions and foreclosures: Cuomo said he will sign on Saturday an executive order barring financial institutions and landlords from foreclosing on a home or evicting a tenant during the next 90 days.
  • State Legislature: Cuomo repeated that he wants the Legislature to remain in session because he believes the work members do is too important to pause. "Pass a budget. Pass a budget. Pass a budget. Pass laws," he said. "Government must function, especially now."

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