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With 'possible flattening of the curve,' Cuomo increases enforcement, extends closings

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Monday afternoon announced extended school and business closings and said enforcement of social distancing violations will be extended in light of data that suggests "a possible flattening of the curve" in the battle against the coronavirus.

Cuomo extended his PAUSE initiative for New York, extending the closing of schools and nonessential businesses until April 29.

The governor also said he was increasing the maximum fine from $500 to $1,000 for violations of state social distancing protocols.

"Public health demands that we stay on pause," said Cuomo, speaking from Albany during his daily update.

Cuomo said that New York's coronavirus death toll reached 4,758, which is an increase of 599 from Sunday. He said there were 130,869 total cases and 16,837 people hospitalized, 4,504 of those in intensive care.

Cuomo said that the number of deaths was "effectually flat for two days," which was part of the information that points to what he described, with several qualifiers, as a "possible flattening of the curve."

Cuomo said: "The big question we are looking at now is: What is the curve?"

Dr. Jim Malatras, president SUNY Empire State College, showed reporters graphs of initial models that had been guiding the state, graphs that have been shown in previous daily updates. One projection showing a need for 110,000 beds at the apex, one showing a need of 55,000 beds, with both having an apex occur around the end of April.

The state's current projections were lower and officials said the state may be entering the apex now, which Cuomo also spoke about on Sunday.

Cuomo said the models offer a number of alternatives of what happens at this point, when the cases stop increasing: The overall curve drops precipitously, has a slight pause at the top before dropping, or a longer pause at the top, which he described as a "plateau."

"No one can tell you which can occur," said Cuomo. "They say any one of the three options. When you study other countries, you get a combination.

"It could still go any way. It is hopeful, but it is inconclusive."

Cuomo cautioned that social distancing needed to continue during the apex, which is the highest point of stress for the state's hospital system.

"This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor, and the engine is at the red line, and we can’t go any faster, and we can’t stay at red line for any continued period of time, or the engine will blow," Cuomo said. "Staying at this level is problematic."

That stress on the system is why he said he extended the closings and increased the social distancing fines.

"From our perspective, it doesn’t matter" if the state has reached the apex, he said, "because we have to do keep doing what we have been doing."

Cuomo displayed photographs of people gathering in public to underscore the need for increased social distancing, mentioning New York City specifically.

"There has been a laxness on social distancing that is totally unacceptable," he said. "People are dying. People in the health care system are exposing themselves to tremendous risk every day.

"I understand that people have been locked up for a long time. But now is not the time to be lax. It is a mistake. We all have a responsibility. We all have a role in this. We all have to respect the role that we play. It is a societal obligation."

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