Cuomo: Trump not a king, can't force states to reopen

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s claim of “total” authority to reopen the nation’s virus-stalled economy

The Democratic governor criticized Trump’s assertion Monday that “when somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total.”

The Republican president made his comments after Cuomo and governors on both coasts announced multi-state compacts to coordinate reopening society amid the global pandemic.

Cuomo, whose state has become a worldwide epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, said restarting the economy must be done in a smart, methodical manner or the hard-won gains of the past month could be quickly lost.

New Yorkers with COVID-19 continue to die at an unnerving pace even the number of patients in hospitals level off. The 778 deaths recorded statewide Monday bring the total to 10,834 in about a month.

In a tweet Tuesday, Trump likened the governors to mutinous crew members in the movie “Munity on the Bounty” and said a “good old fashioned mutiny” can be exciting to watch.

Cuomo said the president was “clearly unhappy.” But after taking aim at the president’s comments Tuesday in multiple TV appearances and a during his state Capitol briefing, Cuomo said he would not engage in a fight with him.

“The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue,” Cuomo said. “This is too important for anyone to play politics.”

Here are other developments in the coronavirus outbreak.

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MEDICAL CRUSH EASING

The total number of people hospitalized Monday was down slightly to 18,697, the first decrease since mid-March. Total hospitalizations have been flat recently, and Cuomo believes the state could be at a peak, or a plateau.

Still, more than 1,600 new COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday.

Meanwhile, New York City’s once-overwhelmed 911 system is now seeing a more normal volume of medical calls, another sign the crisis could be ebbing and that people are heeding messages to call only in a life-threatening emergency.

The fire department, which runs the city’s EMS system, said it received 3,932 calls requesting ambulances Sunday, down from a record high of 6,527 on March 30. The average volume last March and April was just over 4,000 calls.

Sunday was the sixth straight day that the city’s medical call volume was lower than the previous day. Numbers for Monday will be released later Tuesday.

The fire department said it’s too early to know exactly why volume has dropped.

At the peak, operators were answering four new calls a minute.

The fire department said the heavy volume of coronavirus patients had been pushing response times for the most serious calls to an average of more than 10 minutes, up from about 6½ to 7 minutes under normal circumstances.

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MADE IN NEW YORK

New York City will move toward coronavirus self-sufficiency by starting production of virus test kits, face shields and surgical gowns, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

“Starting in a few weeks we will be producing here in New York City 50,000 test kits per week with components put together right here, with companies, universities, New York City workers right here building a brand new supply chain to feed this industry that will now develop in New York City,” de Blasio said, adding, “if we can go further, we’re going to build it up rapidly.”

State and city officials have stressed the need to greatly expand coronavirus testing before any relaxation of social distancing guidelines can be contemplated, and health care workers have complained throughout the virus pandemic of shortages of personal protective equipment like gowns and face shields.

De Blasio said eight city companies are now making 240,000 face shields a week and will ramp up to 465,000 by April 24 and to 620,000 soon after.

He said five companies are making 30,000 surgical gowns a week and the goal is more than 250,000 weekly.

De Blasio said the city will purchase 50,000 test kits a week from Indiana-based Aria-Diagnostics and additionally will start producing its own test kits.

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TRANSIT WORKER TRIBUTE

The MTA, which runs the city’s subways and buses, said 59 employees have died of coronavirus and more than 2,200 workers have tested positive for the disease.

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FORMER LAWMAKER DIES

Former Democratic state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky died last week of a heart attack and not of complications from the coronavirus as originally suspected. His daughter told The New York Times that the 73-year-old had shown symptoms consistant with COVID-19, but also had a heart condition. Test results returned after he died showed he did not have the disease. The Democrat represented parts of Westchester County from 1983 to 2010.

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Villeneuve reported from Albany, N.Y. Michael Hill contributed from Albany.