This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, April 13th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
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3:45 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state would join five states—Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—to collaborate on a plan in the coming weeks to reopen the region's economy as coronavirus cases begin to show signs of flattening.
"Everyone is very anxious to get out of the house," Cuomo said during his second press briefing of the day. "The art form is going to be doing that smartly, and in a productive and coordinated way."
Cuomo was joined on the phone by the five fellow Democratic governors who praised him for bringing them together. He said they were hoping to bring Massachusetts, led by Republican moderate Governor Charlie Baker, into the fold as well.
"The reality is the virus doesn't care about state borders and our response shouldn't either," said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.
Most of the governors are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier in the day, Cuomo said that the "worst was over" with the crisis, while stressing we need to open the valve "slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don't trigger a second wave of new infections."
However, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who has added more restrictions in recent days, said that his state was still "a couple beats behind New York."
"We’re not out of the woods yet," he said.
The states will form a council with three representatives from each state who would meet in the coming days. Cuomo described the initiative as "a sharing of information" in which the states would come up with "a plan that is consistent, if not complementary."
The regional cooperation comes soon amid the backdrop of tensions between the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Saturday, hours after De Blasio announced the closure of New York City schools, Cuomo effectively declared that the decision was not the mayor's to make.
Pressed on why the mayor could not legally close the schools as he does during snowstorms, Cuomo said that the state has the overriding authority under a state of emergency.
"This is a state emergency, the state will follow a uniform plan," he said. "That is the law, that is what governs."
He added: "We’re one state, and we can’t have every local government making independent decisions from other local governments. That would be mayhem."
But as reporters pointed out, the tables may soon be turned on Cuomo and the other governors as President Trump tweeted on Monday that only he and federal government have the right to decide when to reopen the businesses and the economy.
Fox reported that the president planned to named his own council to head up the reopening of the economy. Among those being considered for the roles are his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania argued that since states were left on their own to decide the closures, “I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up.”
Cuomo, who has criticized the lack of federal response from the beginning of the crisis, seemed to suggest that Trump and the federal government should bring it on. "If they want to change the model, they can change the model," he said. "It’s still civics 101."
He added: "You want to make those decisions, tell me and make them in a way that states can follow."
Cuomo Says Reopening Of Economy Will Be Determined By Experts, Not "Political Opinions"
12:30 p.m. Saying that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in New York is over, Governor Andrew Cuomo sketched out an incremental strategy for reopening the state's economy, which would be predicated on seeing a sustained fall in the infection rate of the disease.
During a press conference, Cuomo on Monday said that he planned to speak to the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut later in the day to try coordinate a regional approach to lifting restrictions.
Based on that conversation, he said he would make another announcement at 2 p.m.
He added that any plan would be contingent on the advice of public health experts and economists.
In an obvious dig at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who over the weekend announced the closure of city schools for the rest of the academic year and laid out his own recovery plan, Cuomo said, "I’m not interested in political opinions. I’m interested in what the experts say on this."
Decisions involving schools, transportation, and the economy would need to be coordinated, he added.
"You can’t start one gear with another gear stopped," he said.
The conversation about the restarting the economy comes as the key benchmarks—the change in the number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and intubations—have all been trending downward.
On Sunday, the number of new hospitalizations specifically for COVID-19 patients in New York State fell below 2,000, the first time in the last two weeks.
And after six straight days, the number of reported statewide fatalities fell under 700, to 671, although that number does not take into the account the number of home deaths that have surged amid the pandemic.
As of Sunday, the total reported deaths statewide was 10,056.
Hospitalizations For Suspected COVID-19 Cases In NYC Saw One-Day Drop Of 17 Percent
11:00 a.m. Hospitalizations due to suspected COVID-19 cases in New York City hospitals fell to 383 from 463, a drop of 17 percent, from Friday to Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
During a press conference on Monday the mayor also said the number of people admitted into intensive care units at the city's 11 public hospitals saw a slight decrease, from to 835 from 857, during the same time period.
The final number the city is gauging, the percentage of people who are testing positive for COVID-19, also decreased, to 59.3 percent from 58.1 percent.
De Blasio has said that should all three data points continue to fall for 10 days to two weeks, the city could begin lifting some of the restrictions imposed last month to slow the spread of the virus.
Similar to the decision to close the city's schools, the mayor's recovery plan will likely put him in conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has not indicated a timeline for reopening the economy but has said he wants a statewide, if not regional, response.
At the same time, de Blasio is raising pressure on the governor to extend relief to renters. Following on his call last week for a state order that would allow tenants affected by the crisis to apply their security deposits toward their monthly rent, he argued on Monday that the state should extend the 90-day moratorium on evictions and give tenants who have lost income due to coronavirus the ability to defer their rent and pay over a 12-month period.
De Blasio urged quick action, saying there was a "clear way to put this together in a way that protects tenants and respects the rights of landlords."
And in response to data last week that showed that blacks and Latinos were dying at twice the rate from coronavirus as whites in New York City, the mayor announced a new $10 million advertising campaign targeted at 88 zip codes that are home to those minorities.
Over the weekend, de Blasio announced that the city will open five new coronavirus testing sites in each borough.
Still, some have questioned whether the administration's outreach efforts have come too late, given the known medical vulnerabilities of low-income minorities as well as their historically poor access to healthcare.
De Blasio defended his response, saying that the immediate focus had been on shoring up the city's public hospitals. He said that from the beginning, the city had spent $8 million in a widespread media campaign on coronavirus that was done in 15 languages. Of that budget, $1.5 million was spent on ethnic media outlets.
"Some of the information still needs to be amplified," he acknowledged, adding, "There is no question about how intense and total the effort has been to get out the information."
De Blasio "Quite Certain" NYC Schools Will Remain Closed Through June
On back to back television appearances Monday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio once again assured New York City families that public schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year, refusing to accept Governor Andrew Cuomo's claims that the decision was not his to make.
"We’re keeping the schools closed," he said, during an interview on WPIX 11. "It’s not safe to reopen them. It's not smart to reopen them."
Since making the call on Saturday, de Blasio has been engaged in a public battle with Cuomo over who has the authority to make the final call on reopening city schools. Cuomo has asserted that any decision would have to be coordinated with other localities, if not the tri-state region. On Saturday, he dismissed de Blasio's decision on school closure as an "opinion."
Pressed on who New Yorkers should believe, de Blasio on Monday morning said, "I am quite certain that our schools will remain closed."
De Blasio was also asked about a New York Times story that says he informed Cuomo about his decision through a text message sent minutes before he made the announcement on schools.
"I don't think we should get too deep into the process here," he replied.
As he did over the weekend, the mayor repeatedly tried to downplay his disagreement with Cuomo, saying that he and the governor have largely agreed on most issues involving the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the latest fissure between the two political rivals involves the fate of nearly 1.1 million city school children. It also comes at a critical juncture in the crisis, when encouraging signs that the rate of hospitalizations from the disease appears to be flattening have raised questions about when and how the city and state could begin to reopen businesses and return to normalcy.
According to the latest state tally, New York state had 188,694 confirmed coronavirus cases. At least 9,385 individuals in the state have died from the disease.
Referring to a plan he introduced last week, De Blasio on Monday maintained that businesses could in fact reopen as early as May if certain trends were observed. Beginning on Monday, the city is expected to release the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions. De Blasio has said that those figures, along with the number of people who test positive for the disease, must show a downward trend for 10 days to two weeks for the city to lift some of the restrictions.
But the mayor did not address how working parents could return to work if schools were closed, an issue that Cuomo has raised as a problem for those who rely on the school system for childcare.
"You can start to reopen economy even if schools are shut," de Blasio argued, adding, "The schools issue should be seen in its own light."
In a letter to parents dated April 11th, de blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza explained, "Even at low-level transmission, we’d have new cases, which would be extremely difficult to contain school-to-school. We believe there simply wouldn’t be enough time to bring our students back.Second, we, as parents, know how important it is to have some sense of predictability in order to effectively plan for your family. This crisis is hitting all of us very hard. But we are hopeful that this sense of certainty will allow for more stability and the ability to better plan for our work and home lives."