As the deaths due to coronavirus exceeded 10,000, and hospitalization rates leveled off, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday morning he'd listen to experts and review infection data while forming a "reopening" plan for New York State, and possibly neighboring states.
New York State lost 671 lives due to Covid-19 on Easter Sunday, pushing the state's death toll to 10,056.
"The terrible news is as terrible as it gets," Cuomo said from Albany during his daily coronavirus update, noting that the daily death totals were "basically flat at a horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow."
"Six-hundred seventy-one people who passed away on Easter Sunday," Cuomo said. "For me, I’m Catholic, Easter Sunday is the high holy day, in many ways, and for this to happen over this weekend is really, really, especially tragic."
As has been the case for the past week, that grave news was accompanied by continued reduced rates for hospitalizations, patients put in intensive care and intubations.
"Intubations is the worst signal," said Cuomo. "People who are intubated wind up on a ventilator, most often do not come off the ventilator – something like 70 percent, 80 percent. ... So this is a scary number. When that's down, that's good, and that is down. So that's good news."
The total number of Covid-19 cases in New York State is more than 195,000. Erie County's total number of cases is 1,624.
Asked if Buffalo should be considered a "hot spot," Cuomo said that depends on what you consider a hot spot and said the state was monitoring "clusters" like Buffalo along with Long Island and downstate suburbs.
Dr. Jim Malatras, the president of SUNY Empire State College, said during the briefing that the state is keeping track of Buffalo's daily numbers.
"We’ve been following Buffalo very closely," Malatras said. "Buffalo is pretty stable right now, but if it pops, we’ll definitely have more people on it."
The state also said its unemployment website was getting good feedback after the system was rebooted late last week.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said that 200,000 outgoing calls were made by the Department of Labor over the weekend. The system was changed so that those applying for unemployment who had missing information to be followed up on would not have to spend time on hold and contribute to a logjam that crashed the former system; the state now calls those who are applying and need follow-up service.
DeRosa said that those applying for unemployment should answer calls that may come up as private, because that could very well be the Department of Labor calling about their case.
In his discussion of "reopening" the state, Cuomo said, "we will listen to the experts, we will follow the data."
The governor talked of the "opening of the valve" in terms of the easing of isolation and increasing economic activity, saying that "when you turn that valve, you have to turn that valve very slowly."
Cuomo said the state should "recalibrate the 'essential worker' economy," saying that at present, "essential workers" have been limited to transportation and the medical fields, but that determinations would have to be made to see which workers could return to their jobs.
The governor stressed that more testing and continued precautions – including gloves, masks and temperature-taking – would need to accompany reopening.
"You need more testing as you are opening that valve," Cuomo said.
The governor said that any reopening steps would have to be carried out while paying close watch to the infection rate.
"While you are opening that valve, you have to watch the meter," he said. "What is the meter? The meter is the infection rate.
"There is a cause and effect. You have density, you have more people infecting other people, you will see it in a matter of days. … If you see the infection rate going up, then you know you have opened the valve too fast.
"That is the delicate balance we have to work through."
Cuomo said that various systems would have to be "reopened" at the same time due to their dependence on each other. He cited transportation, the economy and schools as three such "gears."
"These systems work in coordination," he said. "They are big gears, and each gear enmeshes with the other gears. And you can't start one gear if the other ones aren't started."
Cuomo said that he has been in discussion with governors of Connecticut and New Jersey as well as other states with the goal of working together, and that there would be an announcement in Albany at 2 p.m. Monday to that end.
"The optimum is to have as coordinated a plan as you can," said Cuomo. "This is a time for smart, competent, effective government."
Cuomo was asked about the possibility of President Trump firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, after Trump retweeted a call to remove the popular member of the White House's coronavirus task force.
"I think Dr. Fauci is great," Cuomo said. "I think Americans trust him. He’s been very helpful to me as governor.
"As crazy as things get in this world, in crazy Washington, I can’t imagine that happening."