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New York sees highest total of lost lives as coronavirus death toll nears 5,500

New York State continued to see some evidence of a flattening of the coronavirus curve even as it announced its highest one-day total of deaths, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

Cuomo said Monday’s total of deaths in New York was 731, which brings the state’s overall total during the pandemic to 5,489.

Cuomo also cited significantly reduced rates of hospitalizations, daily intensive care cases and intubations as factors contributing to a possible “projected plateau.”

"We talk about the apex, and is the apex a plateau, and right now we are projecting that we are reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalizations," Cuomo said from Albany during his daily coronavirus briefing, stressing that it is a projection and that social distancing measures need to continue to be followed.

"It still depends on what we do, and what we do will affect those numbers. This is not an act of God that what we're looking at, it's an act of what society actually does."

Cuomo explained why the high number of deaths and the reduced hospitalization numbers are happening at the same time.

"The number of deaths, the number of losses, is a lagging indicator to the number of hospitalizations," he said. "That’s why you’re seeing the number of deaths increase, because these are people that came in at the peak."

Prior to Monday's high, the daily totals of deaths had been a sign of a possible plateau officials talked about in recent days. From Thursday to Sunday, the state's death totals were: 562, 630, 594 and 599.

Cuomo said New York's total of cases is now 138,836.

The governor was asked about his plan to move ventilators from upstate hospitals to downstate hospitals, which was met with major pushback from Western New York leaders last week, in light of the Healthcare Association of New York State's announcement Monday that it would work with the state on "voluntary effort to redeploy available ventilators."

Cuomo said that the state now has more ventilators on hand, and that "we’re not in the position that we were in."

Cuomo said that the state’s number of ventilators has increased in recent days, through a donation of 1,000 of the valuable machines from China and contributions of hundreds from other states, including California, Washington and Oregon. He also said the state acquired an additional 500.

Cuomo reiterated his plan and said it was based on numbers provided by hospitals.

“The hospitals tell us what they have, quote-unquote, available, meaning unused and they’re not going to use it in the foreseeable future,” Cuomo said. “It was always, of the equipment that you, the hospital, believe is available. If the state lent 20% of the available units, as you define available, that would be 500.

“And 500 ventilators was a big deal, especially two weeks ago.”

Addressing what he called "restarting life," Cuomo said that the state would be ramping up its testing capacity, and that there will need to be further financial assistance from the federal government.

"Every state budget has been decimated by this situation," the governor said. "Our budget just collapsed, our revenue just collapsed. You want to restart the economy, you need to restart local government, and that needs to be a federal act. That will be a federal stimulus bill, there’s no other way to do this.

"The federal government passed some legislation, as I said at the time it was woefully inadequate from New York's point of view. We have had some time to review the legislation, and it actually gets worse when you read it. It was not fair to New York, and that has to be remedied."

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said that work continues on the state's unemployment system, which has seen a deluge of calls in recent weeks.

[Related: Advice to those desperately seeking jobless benefits? 'Patience and persistence']

She said that the state worked with Verizon to rebuild lines that were crashing and said a new upgrade will be completed by Thursday.

“We continue to ask people to be patient as we get this resolved,” she said.

Cuomo reiterated that continued social distancing is needed to continue to "flatten the curve." On Monday, the governor said the state had reached a "possible flattening of the curve" as he extended school and nonessential business closings and ramped up the penalties for violating social distance orders.

"We are changing the curve. You see that plateauing," he said. "Social distancing is working. It is working, that’s why you see those numbers going down. If we were doing the same rate of interaction, those numbers would keep going up.

"We have to keep doing it. I know it’s hard, but we have to keep doing it. Remember it is about ‘we’ and it is not about ‘me.’ "

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