'Worst Is Over,' Cuomo Says as 6 States Ally to Reopen Economy

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware said Monday that they would work together to plan for reopening the region’s economies, schools and other important elements.

'Worst Is Over,' Cuomo Says as 6 States Ally to Reopen Economy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said that health and economic officials from the six states were starting work immediately on developing strategies for easing restrictions that have brought much of daily life to a halt.

The officials, Cuomo said, would “study the data, study the research, study the experience of other countries, and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward.”

“Let’s be smart, and let’s be cooperative, and let’s learn from one another,” Cuomo said.

The six states together have recorded over 300,000 confirmed virus cases, more than half of the U.S. total, and nearly 14,000 deaths, around 60% of the country’s total.

The governors, all Democrats, emphasized the importance of acting in concert so that the actions of one state did not inadvertently hurt another or cause the outbreak to flare again.

“We can put together a system that allows our people to get back to work,” Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said.

Asked whether the collaboration among the states was a rebuke to the President Donald Trump, who has said the decision about businesses reopening was his to make, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said only that he was focused on making decisions based on facts and science, and he reiterated that an economic recovery was inextricable from a public health recovery.

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania echoed Murphy’s comments in responding to a similar question.

“The sequence,” Wolf said, “is you’ve got to get people healthy first, and then you can reopen the economy.”

‘The worst is over’ if New Yorkers remain resolute, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said Monday, for the first time, that he believed the most horrific phase of the coronavirus outbreak may have passed.

“I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “I believe we can start on the path to normalcy.”

But the governor wavered on the pronouncement several times. Asked a follow-up question at the briefing about whether he was confident the worst was indeed over, Cuomo said he was not. He repeated that the state was experiencing plateaus in key categories but that if New Yorkers did not continue to follow the current restrictions, the situation would worsen.

“The worst can be over, and it is over, unless we do something reckless,” he said. “And you can turn those numbers on two or three days of reckless behavior.”

Even if the outbreak had reached its apex, the governor said, there would be weeks of suffering to come. He noted how many people were still dying of the virus.

He said the number of deaths, while “basically flat,” was “basically flat at a horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow.”

Still, despite there being more than 5,000 virus-related deaths in the state in the past week and nearly 19,000 people still in hospitals, Cuomo noted that most of the main measures of the outbreak’s severity were either leveling off or decreasing:

— The state’s one-day toll of 671 deaths, while still “horrific,” Cuomo said, was the lowest it had been in a week. The total has been below last week’s peak, 799, for the past four days.

— The number of intubated patients — most of whom, he said, would never recover — had dropped in two of the past three days.

— The number of newly hospitalized patients, 1,958, was the lowest it had been in two weeks.

— The three-day average increase in the number of hospitalized patients dropped to 85, the smallest increase to date.

— The number of people who tested positive for the virus Sunday, 6,337, was the lowest it has been in almost three weeks. The state has 195,031 confirmed virus cases, 106,673 of them in New York City.

Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have emphasized for the past several days that any return to a semblance of normal life in the city and state will proceed in phases, during which restrictions will be eased based on measurable progress against the virus.

The governor said Monday that even if he were correct that the worst had passed, it could easily take 12 to 18 months for the state’s economy to return to normal.

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Over 20 NYC public schoolteachers have died of the virus.

The virus has caused the deaths of at least 50 Education Department employees, including 21 teachers, in New York City, officials said Monday.

The dead include Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, 54, a third-grade teacher at Public School 9 in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, who died March 31, and Dez-Ann Romain, principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy in the Brownsville section. She died March 23 at 36.

Among the other Education Department employees who have died, 22 were paraprofessionals who provided support for children with disabilities and two were school administrators. The dead also included a guidance counselor, a member of the food staff and two employees at the department’s central office.

In-person classes were halted starting March 16, but teachers and principals were asked to continue to report to schools throughout that week to prepare for remote learning. Many teachers were frustrated that city and state officials had not closed schools sooner.

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The governor and mayor are at odds over NYC’s school shutdown.

De Blasio and Cuomo, who have feuded for years, continued for a third day to tussle over the mayor’s decision to keep New York City’s schools closed for the rest of the academic year.

The mayor announced the closings Saturday, but Cuomo subsequently insisted that the final decision was his and that it was too soon to make one.

“We won’t open schools one minute sooner than they should be opened,” Cuomo said Sunday, “but we won’t open schools one minute later than they should be opened, either.”

“Nobody knows what we will be doing in June,” he added, in a seeming rebuke to the mayor.

De Blasio reiterated in television interviews early Monday that he and the city schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, had the authority to keep schools closed for the city’s 1.1 million students.

“We’re not reopening schools,” de Blasio said on MSNBC. “It won’t be safe for all the people we’re supposed to protect, and our job, our responsibility is to them.”

When asked on WPIX-TV what parents who might be confused by the mixed signals should do, he said, “They should simply plan on the fact that they’ll be closed. I’m quite convinced that they will be, and that’s the right thing to do.”

Cuomo also stuck to his position. In an interview Monday on “The Howard Stern Show,” the governor repeated that the decision should be coordinated regionally.

“I can’t have things happen that are mistakes,” he said, before suggesting that de Blasio was a “local official” who had stepped out of line.

Virus-related hospital admissions dropped in NYC, the mayor said.

The number of virus patients admitted to hospitals in New York City dropped 17% from Saturday to Sunday, de Blasio said early Monday.

The mayor said that 383 people had been admitted Sunday, down from 463 the day before.

In other encouraging news, de Blasio said that the number of people in intensive-care units in the city’s public hospitals had also declined, although only slightly, to 835 from 857. And the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus from Saturday to Sunday had also dropped slightly.

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The developments came as the mayor unveiled a new public effort to track the three measures he has said must move downward consistently and in unison for New York City to lift the restrictions that have shut down the city.

The measure are: the number of people suspected of having the virus who are admitted to hospitals; the number of people suspected of having the virus who are admitted to intensive care units; and the percentage of people who test positive for the virus.

“I’m pleased to report we do see all the important indicators moving in the right direction,” the mayor said. But as he has for several days, he emphasized that any change in the city’s restrictions was also contingent on more widespread testing than was currently available.

Other highlights from the mayor’s morning briefing included:

— The suspension of alternate-side parking rules has been extended to April 28.

— He called on the Rent Guidelines Board to enact a rent freeze.

— He urged the state to let tenants who have lost income because of the virus defer the payment of rent and repay over a 12-month period. “Let’s acknowledge the extent of this crisis and give tenants a way forward,” he said.

— People who see violations of social-distancing rules will soon be able to report them by sending a photograph, along with location information, to 311.

Bad weather prompts the closing of drive-thru testing sites.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Monday closed drive-thru virus testing sites because of the harsh wind and rains that were lashing the region.

The New York State Health Department said Monday that it had closed all of the 10 drive-thru testing sites it operates. The sites are expected to reopen Tuesday.

New Jersey closed a number of its drive-thru testing sites, including one in Holmdel. At least seven sites in Connecticut were also closed.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times .

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