Despite a series of tweets from President Donald Trump sent out on April 17, slamming New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, the governor reported that the federal government had sent New York State 1.5 million cloth masks in his daily press briefing on April 18. This comes on the heels of Cuomo’s executive order stating that all New Yorkers should wear face masks in public, when not social distancing, which went into effect last night. It’s unclear whether the federal government sent the masks to New York before or after the president’s tweets.
In today’s press conference, Cuomo dug deeper into what it meant to systematize the testing process in the state. He noted that there are about 30 private companies in the state that manufacture a viable COVID-19 test, all of which are different and require different types of chemical “reagents” to process. These 30 companies are then selling these tests to the 301 labs/hospitals in the state, which can then begin the arduous process of testing everyone in the state. To get an idea of where the state was, Cuomo noted that he had reached out to 50 of the top labs in the state and asked them what it would take to double the testing output. (Note: New York has already tested more people for COVID-19 than any other state or country in the world.) The labs all said that in order to begin doubling testing, they would need to have better access to the chemical reagents needed to complete the tests—hence the appeal Cuomo made to the federal government yesterday to secure more reagents from China. Since the federal government also regulates the 30 manufacturers of the test kits, that, Cuomo said, would also have to be eased to scale up testing, and it would also need to start funding New York State to ensure that the proper amount of testing was executed. Cuomo took a subtle dig at what can only be deemed the president by saying, “The Republican doctrine used to be limited government and states rights.”
The push for testing comes at a time when Cuomo has regularly noted a flattening of the curve in the state and has begun to map out the early stages of reopening the economy. This, of course, can’t happen just yet and is wholly contingent on getting the infection rate down further. (As Cuomo has noted in the past, society at large won’t be able to return to normalcy until there’s a viable vaccine, which will likely take 12-18 months to produce.) The infection rate is currently sitting at 0.9 percent, meaning that every person infected with COVID-19 infects a little less than a single person. The fear is, noted Cuomo, if businesses are reopened and large gatherings are allowed prematurely, that infection rate could skyrocket again.
Currently, signs of the curve flattening are being bolstered by positive data. The total hospitalizations, ICU admissions and daily intubations numbers were all down, as was the total number of deaths, which dipped from 630 (April 16) to 540 (April 17).
Despite those positive data, though, hospitals are still seeing 2,000 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, and New York State is still leading the rest of the union in total cases, with more than 230K total cases. New Jersey’s a distant second with more than 78K total cases.