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NY COVID-19 Deaths Pass 10K; Governors Talk Reopening Strategy as Curve Flattens Further

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will meet (in some fashion) Monday to discuss a coordinated reopening strategy for the tri-state region, though what that looks like -- and how long it will take -- is still anyone's guess.

Though the curve of new COVID-19 cases has more or less flattened now, people are still getting sick, people are still being intubated and put into intensive care, and people are still dying. From nothing at the end of February, in six weeks the novel coronavirus infected more than 268,000 people and killed more than 12,000 in just this region alone.

"There's real pain in this city right now, and I think we should be very careful to not declare a new reality until we're sure. I'm not sure we have a plateau yet, I'm not sure there couldn't be a resurgence," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC Monday morning.

But that plateau will come at some point. One of the most widely cited virus models, Latest New York City News from the Gates Foundation-backed IHME, estimates that deaths in our area will more or less end by the first week of May, assuming social distancing is maintained.

After that, it may be time to start getting the dismantled economy back to work.

"On Monday I'll be meeting with Governors Cuomo and Murphy, New York, New Jersey & Connecticut, working together as a partnership, about our Back to Work strategy," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said on Twitter.

Governor Cuomo said an announcement would come at 2 p.m. Monday focused on a regional approach to reopen states, although, he said, "any plan to reopen society must be driven by data and experts, not opinion and politics."

Schools have suddenly become the flashpoint of that conversation, thanks to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's surprise Saturday morning decision to close the city's schools for the rest of the year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded just hours later that it was his decision, not the mayor's, and that a regional strategy was needed.

De Blasio doubled down Sunday on his plan to close city public schools for the remainder of the academic year, in direct contradiction with Gov. Cuomo. While most families tried to find a way to celebrate a quarantined Easter Sunday, both politicians sat down for the cameras and positioned themselves as the authority to make the final call on the country's largest school district.

Cuomo, foreshadowing the argument to come, said if schools were closed then businesses were closed too -- and it was too soon to know if that was right for June or not.

But De Blasio stood his ground Monday morning, saying it was his call - and schools would be closed, period.

A Flatter Curve
Cuomo reiterated this weekend that data reported from hospitals across the state reflect a flattening of the curve, an objective desperately needed for the public's safety and an early step toward reopening the state.

New York State deaths topped 10,000 Monday following an additional 671 deaths reported by Cuomo. In total, 10,056 New Yorkers have died.

Put another way -- at this point, COVID-19 is killing every two days roughly what flu season kills in New York in a full year. And while things will improve and businesses and schools will reopen, the specter of the virus will linger.

"I don't think ultimate resolution comes until there's a vaccine … that's 18 months," Cuomo said in an interview on The Howard Stern Show Monday morning.

The governor said the number of daily ICU admissions and intubations, over a three-day average, are down. "Here’s the good news, the curve continues to flatten," Gov. Cuomo said Monday. "It appears we have a plateau."

De Blasio revealed Monday the city was closely monitoring three indicators that he believes show New York City's progress in reaching and crossing over the curve. Those indicators are the number of people admitted to hospitals, number of people in intensive care units, and percentage of people tested positive for COVID-19. All three indicators were slightly lower Sunday compared to the day before, de Blasio said.

In terms of supplies, the mayor said hospitals are staffed with the minimum number of N95 masks, surgical masks and gloves to get through the upcoming week. Face shields and surgical gowns are stocked as well, but just barely.

Meanwhile, de Blasio said Monday that alternate side parking would be suspended another two weeks, through April 28.

De Blasio also announced the immediate opening of 500 non-clinical staff positions throughout New York City's Health and Hospitals system. The positions will fill roles in patient transport, clerical work and cleaning, de Blasio said.

On CNN, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said certain models suggest the state is reaching its peak, but cautioned against reopening the state and relaxing social distancing rules too early.

“And I fear, if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire, even inadvertently,” Murphy said.

More than 2,300 people with COVID-19 have died in New Jersey, and more than 61,000 have tested positive.

Where Do We Go From Here?
Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say. Roughly one in 10 workers has lost a job in the last 21 days; a record 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak started. President Trump plans to unveil a second White House virus task force, this one focused on the economy, a senior administration official confirmed.

New York alone has seen 810,000 unemployment claims since March 9. It has processed 600,000 of them. With hundreds of thousands still in limbo, the state is launching a new unemployment site that won't require a phone call. Press Release Distribution Service For 2 million rent-stabilized tenants in New York City, De Blasio is calling for a rent freeze and a legal change that would let them pay their rent with security deposits.

Cuomo says antibody testing, which identifies people who have recovered from COVID-19, will hasten a return to the workforce. He, along with some of the nation's top experts, say it's unlikely someone who has had the novel coronavirus will get re-infected because their course with it may grant them the precious immunity no one had before becoming infected with it themselves.

If testing gets to the point where people can be tested for antibodies even without a prior COVID-19 test, many more could get back to work even sooner.

But pace is the issue — New York can only do a few thousand tests a week, when the need is in the hundreds of thousands or even millions.

"No one has the perfect date of when we get back to normal," De Blasio said on MSNBC, hinting at "months" of work to make sure the virus does not snap back.

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