By Dave Goldiner
Tribune News Service
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded the alarm Wednesday that coronavirus cases and deaths are still spiking in New York.
The governor issued a new edict banning contact in city playgrounds and floated a proposal to close some New York City streets to traffic.
“We’re still on the way up the mountain,” Cuomo said, pointing to the rising curve of positive cases and deaths.
The state now has 30,611 coronavirus cases and 5,000 new cases. New York City has 17,000 cases and more than 3,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Some 199 people in New York City have died from the pandemic after seven deaths were reported overnight, city officials said. A majority of the cases are under 50 years old but almost all the fatalities are older than 45.
The statewide death toll is nearing 300.
Responding to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that America could be “raring to go” by Easter, Cuomo said it’s not sustainable to keep the nation’s economy shut down indefinitely.
But he said he would never consider abandoning potential victims to illness or death amid the still-spreading pandemic.
“I don’t think it’s binary,” he said. “There’s a risk-stratification quotient.”
With a smile, Cuomo suggested he would not respect Trump’s edict that anyone who has been in New York City should quarantine themselves for 15 days. The governor was in the city Tuesday.
“I would not follow that,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner. “I would follow the CDC guidelines.”
On a brighter note, there were only 800 new cases in Westchester County, once the hottest hot spot in the state.
“Can you slow the spread?” he said. “Yes, we did it in Westchester.”
Cuomo said the worse surge of patients into overburdened hospitals might come in about three weeks’ time. New York needs an estimated 140,000 beds then compared with a total of 53,000 now.
Hospitals have agreed to dramatically raise their capacity, and federal officials are building field hospitals and sending a hospital ship to New York Harbor.
The state will use empty dormitories and shuttered nursing homes to meet the coming need. Trump has said he wants much of the nation to return to close to normal by Easter, which is April 12, or two weeks from Sunday.
Cuomo took a shot at Congress, calling the $2 trillion stimulus plan the Senate negotiators cut early Wednesday morning “terrible” for New York. He said the plan would allocate just $3 billion for the state and less than $2 billion for the city, compared to a House plan that was more than five times as generous.
“It’s a drop in the bucket,” he said. “We need to make changes.”
Seeking to douse a bubbling war of words with Trump, Cuomo noted he spoke to the president Wednesday and praised Jared Kushner for being “extraordinarily helpful” amid the crisis.
“We’re working on a common challenge,” Cuomo said.
The two leaders sparred over Trump’s slow response to the crisis Tuesday, but Trump insisted Wednesday that “I do” like Cuomo. The governor, in turn, thanked Trump for his cooperation.
“We are asking their help,” he said. “We will repay it with dividends.”
He offered a glimmer of hope that the increase in hospitalizations is leveling off, suggesting social distancing might be starting to at least slow the spread of the deadly virus in the state.
“This is a very good sign,” he said. “The arrows are headed in the right direction.”
The governor again sought to inspire hard-pressed New Yorkers with the rhetoric of hope and determination as the darkest days loom.
“Your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. And our closeness is what makes us who we are. That is what New York is,” he said.
“And that’s undefeatable. We will be there for each other as we always have been.”
He vowed that New Yorkers would set an example to the nation as it battles the pandemic.
“That humanity and that sharing that is our greatest strength, and that is what is going to overcome at the end of the day,” the governor said. “I promise you that.”