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Trump extends federal social distancing guidelines as N.Y. cases rise

The number of New Yorkers who tested positive for Covid-19 is up and so is the number of days that federal social distancing guidelines will stay in effect.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported during his daily news conference Sunday that 59,513 state residents have the disease. Of those, 8,503 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, while 3,572 people who were hospitalized with the virus have been released.

New hospitalizations in New York for Covid-19 increased by 1,175 on Saturday, compared with 847 reported Friday. But Cuomo said the rate of increase is slowing, with the rate now doubling every six days.

Those figures, however, are based only on the numbers who've been tested. Given the scarcity of tests, the actual numbers of those infected with the novel coronavirus could be much higher.

Later Sunday, President Trump said the federal government’s guidelines for social distancing would last until April 30, backing down from his previous comments that he hoped the country could go back to work by Easter.

He had clashed with public health experts around the country when he suggested that the guidelines — which urge people to stay at home and not to gather in groups of more than 10 — might be relaxed by April 12. His announcement on Sunday indicated that he had backed down from that suggestion.

New York continues to be the nation's hot spot for the virus. There were 965 deaths reported throughout the state as of midday Sunday, up from 728 deaths reported Saturday. Roughly one-quarter of those deaths were reported from nursing homes, Cuomo said.

He called the statewide progression of Covid-19 a "rolling apex," where different parts of the state will see infections peak at different times.

"Current projections say New York City will face the first high water mark, but then you'll see Westchester, Long Island on a delay, and then upstate New York," Cuomo said. "So if you are not in a highly infected health area now, that does not mean you won't have a real situation to deal with because these numbers will just be going up across the state."

Meanwhile, 76,000 health care workers throughout the country have volunteered to works in hospitals, Cuomo reported. In addition, more than 12,000 mental health experts and professionals who have signed up to provide services either by telephone, Skype or other forms of communication.

Cuomo said a less intrusive form of Covid-19 testing was reported by state Department of Health. The saliva and short nasal swab test requires less personal protection equipment, limits health care workers' exposure, and health care workers will even be able to administer it to themselves, though the public will still have to be tested by health care personnel.

The test is expected to be utilized next week, Cuomo said.

Testing is critical to putting New Yorkers back to work, Cuomo insisted.

“People ask, 'When is this over?' I think it’s testing. You tell me when they come with inexpensive home tests or point-of-care tests. I think that’s probably when you will see a real return to normalcy in the workforce,” said Cuomo. “If you could today test millions of people, you could send them to work tomorrow.”

The total number people tested in New York State as of Saturday night was 172,000, Cuomo said.

"That’s the highest in the country. Of those, 59,000 people tested positive," the governor said.

A 14-day travel advisory – not a quarantine – was issued Saturday night in New York State, Cuomo confirmed.

“This is not a lockdown,” Cuomo said. “It’s nothing that we haven’t been doing already.”

The travel advisory was issued for residents in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cuomo extended the PAUSE directive by two weeks to April 15. It requires all nonessential workers to work from home.

Cuomo also mentioned an executive order that had been issued in Rhode Island but then repealed Saturday night, where vehicles with New York license plates could have been stopped at the border for mandatory quarantine of "some period."

"This is disorienting, frightening and disturbing. Your whole life is turned upside down overnight,” said Cuomo. “I know you feel under attack. … No one is going to attack New York unfairly. No one is going to deprive New York of what it needs.”

State lawmakers will be back in Albany by Monday to try to pass a budget by April 1. Cuomo warned New Yorkers to expects revenue shortfalls.

"Now we have to make drastic cuts to the budget like you have never seen,'' Cuomo said.

Includes reporting from the New York Times

With big spending cuts eyed, lawmakers head back to Albany for fiscal dealmaking

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