NEW YORK -- Despite some hopeful signs that the infection rate is plateauing, New York has had its deadliest week since the coronavirus outbreak began. Officials announced Sunday that the state’s daily death toll had topped 700 for the sixth straight day. Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, two Democrats, remained at odds over the mayor’s plan to keep city schools closed through the rest of the academic year, with the governor saying it is too early to make that call.
NEW YORK’S WORST WEEK
By the end of the day Saturday, New York had recorded 758 more deaths from the virus, another crushing day of losses in a week full of them.
At least 5,226 people died in the state in the week that ended Saturday, raising the total number of deaths to 9,385 since the outbreak began.
The continuing crush of fatalities has been reflected on the streets of New York City, where refrigerated trailers serving as temporary morgues have become a regular sight outside the hardest-hit hospitals.
There have been some signs of progress. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has stabilized, with around 18,700 patients at the end of the day Saturday. That was up only 73 since the previous day.
After visiting a nursing home near Albany and shouting thanks and support to the staff through closed windows, Cuomo told reporters back at the state Capitol he remains hopeful spring will bring better news.
“What spring says to all of us is it’s a time of rebirth, that no matter how cold the winter, no matter how barren the landscape got, the earth comes back to life,” Cuomo said. “This has been a cold period from a societal point of view. And we’ve closed down in a way we’ve never closed down, but we will come back to life and we will have a rebirth. And that’s what spring is all about.”
The virus has ripped through New York’s nursing homes unabated, with nearly 1,900 patients killed through Saturday.
Measures like barring visitors haven’t stopped the spread. More than 5,500 residents at 338 nursing homes have tested positive for the coronavirus. There are about 96,000 residents at 613 licensed nursing homes in the state.
More than 2,700 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded at nursing homes nationwide.
WILL SCHOOLS STAY CLOSED?
Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio remained at odds Sunday over the mayor’s announcement that the 1.1 million students in the nation’s largest district wouldn’t return to classrooms this school year.
De Blasio announced Saturday that he’d decided it was too dangerous to bring students back to classrooms, even if the spread of the virus slows in the two months ahead.
After Cuomo challenged de Blasio’s authority to make that decision unilaterally, the mayor doubled down Sunday, saying, “We were quite certain it was the right thing to do.”
Two hours later, Cuomo, who, for years now, has made a practice of publicly undercutting New York’s mayor, sometimes over policy differences, at other times seemingly just for sport, said talk of closing schools for the year is premature.
“I don’t think anyone can make an informed decision right now,” he said.
De Blasio said his goal is to reopen school sites by September, adding that high school graduates may have to go without a commencement ceremony.
NOT ENOUGH MASKS?
Unions for health care workers continue to decry what they say is a lack of enough protective equipment at hospitals.
The New York State Nurses Association reported shortages of respirators, masks, gloves and protective gowns, according to a letter sent Saturday to the state’s health department.
“Our nurses continue to report dangerous working conditions that expose them and other workers to infection and illness because they lack sufficient supplies,” the letter read.
Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa said Sunday that the supply chain for those items should have improved by now to the point where hospitals should no longer have to ration supplies.
“There’s been something of a disconnect between the hospitals and the nurses on the front lines,” DeRosa said during a briefing. “We’ve got what we believe that we should have and the hospitals say that too.”
She said state officials are investigating anecdotal reports of rationing to see why it is occurring, and whether the state can help.
Cuomo said he would sign an executive order Sunday directing employers to give masks to all employees still interacting with the public.
That order covers not just health care workers, but all employees in any sector.
HOTELS FOR THE HOMELESS
De Blasio says the city is going forward with a plan to move 6,000 homeless people from shelters to commercial hotels to try to limit the virus’ spread.
The plan involves moving people who have tested positive or showing COVID-19 symptoms. The effort is also is meant to thin out shelters where it’s “difficult to achieve social distancing,” the mayor said.
The city says 20 homeless people have died from the virus. There are about 58,000 people in the shelter system and another 4,000 or so on city streets.
AN EMPTY ST. PATRICK’S ON EASTER
The coronavirus pandemic means that this Easter Sunday, there were no congregants in the pews at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan led a televised Mass in a broadcast expected to draw a large audience.
Dolan said on Sunday that he was happy that congregants could have a virtual celebration.
“We miss you though,” he said. “We’d rather you be here physically.”