This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, March 30th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here. Read our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY's stay-at-home order; a look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
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6:00 p.m. In an executive order published on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo made additional changes to the state’s upcoming election calendar. The governor set a new date for the Queens borough president special election, which was supposed to take place on March 24th. Mayor de Blasio had postponed that contest two weeks ago, even with early voting under way, and had not yet set a new date.
That election is now scheduled for June 23rd, with early voting to begin June 13th. Cuomo’s new executive order also said that any special election scheduled for April 28th would be moved to June, which means the City Council special election to fill the seat of Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal is now postponed to June 23rd. Espinal abruptly resigned in January to lead the Freelancer's Union. At least four individuals have registered to run.
The Queens borough president's office was vacated by former BP Melinda Katz, who left the job to become Queens district attorney. (Katz announced yesterday that she is currently battling coronavirus.)
The full list of candidates on the ballot for the Queens borough president special election include city councilmembers Donovan Richards and Costa Constantinides, former city council member Elizabeth Crowley, retired NYPD sergeant Anthony Miranda, and former prosectors Jim Quinn, and Dao Yin. City councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is also on the ballot although he suspended his campaign in January.
Normally, the winner of a special election would run in a primary and general election in the same year, like Public Advocate Jumaane Williams did last year, although no one challenged him in the primary. Right now, it’s unclear if those additional contests will take place later this year, or if the winners of the special elections will be able to serve through the balance of the terms, which expire at the end of 2021. Primaries and general elections are already scheduled for next year for both of those seats as part of the existing election calendar.
A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the governor’s decision to move the races.
“We thank Governor Cuomo for endorsing the Mayor's recommendation to consolidate the presidential primary to June 23rd to protect the health of voters and poll workers,” said mayoral spokesperson Jose Bayona.
In a nod to the challenges that remain ahead, he added, “We look forward to working together with the Governor and the Legislature to expand absentee voting to ensure the essential functions of our democratic process continue to operate amid a public health crisis.”
This latest executive order comes after the governor announced on Saturday that he was moving the state’s Democratic presidential primary from April 28th to June 23rd.
Reporting by Brigid Bergin
Congresswoman Says She Has 'Presumed Coronavirus Infection'
4:00 p.m. Representative Nydia Velázquez on Monday issued a statement saying that after falling ill, she has been diagnosed with "presumed coronavirus infection."
The 67-year-old Democrat represents the 7th District, which encompasses Brooklyn, Queens and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I began to feel under the weather," she wrote. "I developed the abrupt onset of muscle aches, fevers, nasal congestion and stomach upset. I noticed that I could no longer smell my perfume or taste my food."
Velázquez said that she later spoke with her physician who gave her the diagnoses. She said the physician did not recommend that she undergo a COVID-19 test nor visit a doctor's office.
"My symptoms are mild at the present time and I am taking Tylenol for fever, and isolating myself at my home," she added. "I am carefully monitoring my symptoms, working remotely and in constant contact with my staff."
To date, five members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus.
Rather than inundate healthcare facilities, doctors have recommended that those exhibiting mild symptoms of coronavirus stay at home and wait to see if they get better on their own. About 80 percent of people who are sickened will self-resolve, according to health experts.
Last week, City Councilmember Mark Levine also announced that he had coronavirus symptoms. He said he was he did not plan to get tested but would instead rest and monitor his symptoms at home.
Cuomo Says NYC Area Hospitals 'Have To Work As One System'
2:30 p.m. In preparation for a surge of coronavirus patients that could collapse the healthcare system, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the state was working on a possibly unprecedented plan to coordinate efforts across public and private hospitals in the New York City area.
New York City has 11 public hospitals that ultimately answer to the mayor. Roughly 40 or so private hospitals, such as Mount Sinai and NewYork-Presbyterian, are led by CEOs who report to a board of directors.
"We said we have to work as one system," Cuomo said, during a press conference at the Jacob K. Javits Center on Monday.
He said that under such a unified plan, supplies and staffing could be shifted according to need between different hospitals across the state, as well as between public and private entities. Starting on Tuesday, a command center will oversee supplies and purchasing for all of the hospitals in New York City.
The governor said that no one could remember the last time the state had to coordinate such a system between all of the hospitals. He said that there there were no legal barriers to such a plan, and that all parties were willing to cooperate.
"With each day that goes on, the stress point will increase," said Kenneth Raske, president of the trade group Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents a network of private hospitals. "It is clear we will be one cohesive family in tackling this."
As of Monday morning, there were 66,497 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, an increase of nearly 7,000 since Sunday's official tally. At least 1,218 have died in New York state from coronavirus, an increase of 250 fatalities since Sunday's numbers were announced, and the highest increase in deaths so far.
All hospitals have been ordered to increase capacity by at least 50 percent.
Monday morning marked the arrival of the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship sent by the federal government. Along with the opening of four field hospitals at the Javits Center and a nursing home facility on Roosevelt Island called the Coler Center, the city now has at least 2,350 additional hospital beds for non-coronavirus patients.
Cuomo renewed his call on healthcare workers from across the country to come to the aid of the state, as hospitals anticipate a need for reinforcements to relieve overworked and possibly sickened staff.
"If you don’t have a healthcare crisis in your community, please come help us now," he said, adding, "We will return the favor."
More than 76,000 healthcare workers, many of them retired, have already volunteered to assist the state in its coronavirus response.
As State Death Toll Passes 1,000, De Blasio Says Sunday Is "D-Day" For NYC
In yet another sobering milestone, the number of deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 in New York state has now surpassed 1,000, according to latest tallies from the city and state.
At least 776 people in New York City have died as a result of the novel coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon. Citywide, there were 33,474 confirmed cases.
The news comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to plead with the federal government to send in more equipment, particularly ventilators, as well as additional medical personnel to help the beleaguered doctors and workers in New York City.
He has said that the city's public hospitals will run out of critical supplies on April 5th, this coming Sunday.
"I’ve put down a marker," de Blasio said, speaking on CNN Monday morning. "Sunday is D-Day. We need help by Sunday."
New York City has received roughly 2,500 ventilators to date, far short of the 15,000 city officials say are needed.
De Blasio said he had received "no new assurances" that additional supplies were coming.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump extended social distancing rules through the end of April, reversing against his earlier statement that the U.S. might begin easing restrictions by Easter. He referred to projections that as many as 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 nationwide.
But even as he acknowledged the severity of the crisis, the president also criticized the demand for personal protective equipment by hospitals in New York, suggesting without evidence that there was theft of PPE for black market sales.
“Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going — are they going out the back door?” Trump said during a press conference on Sunday. “Somebody should probably look into that because I just don’t see from a practical standpoint how that’s possible to go from that to that, and we have that happening in numerous places.”
De Blasio called the president's comments "insulting" and "outrageous."
Governor Andrew Cuomo also struck back against Trump's remarks.
"This is not a political exercise," he said on MSNBC. "The tsunami is coming."
Cuomo said it was imperative that the federal government begin mobilizing supplies for New York.
"Stop the politics," he implored. "Listen to the scientists and the pros."
Both the governor and mayor are awaiting the arrival on Monday morning of a Navy hospital ship called the Comfort in New York harbor. The 1,000-bed ship will be used for non-coronavirus patients, freeing up space at existing New York City hospitals. It is equipped with more than 1,000 Navy personnel.
Queens DA Tests Positive For COVID-19
Melinda Katz, the Queens District Attorney, has tested positive for coronavirus.
Katz confirmed the news to Gothamist/WNYC on Monday morning.
The 54-year-old reportedly learned on March 21st that she had been exposed to the virus. She received her results on Saturday.
"It was several days, almost a week after I was tested," she told Gothamist/WNYC on Monday. "So at the moment, I'm feeling very well. I think I'm almost asymptomatic. Although you never want to you never want to challenge that. But look, I'm luckier than most people. I knew I was exposed. I got to take a test because I was exposed because I had symptoms. I had a fever, cough."
She said she is currently quarantined with her two children.
Katz is one of at least three city-elected officials known to have contracted the virus. City Councilmembers Ritchie Torres and Inez Barron have also said they have tested positive.
Brigid Bergin contributed reporting to this story.
First FDNY Member Dies From Coronavirus
The city's fire department has announced that an auto mechanic who worked in Queens died on Sunday from coronavirus, becoming the first member of the FDNY to die from the disease.
James Villecco, a 55-year-old Staten Island resident, worked as an auto mechanic at the Coney Island repair facility and later, the Queens Review Avenue facility, where he worked in the ambulance repair shop.
He joined the FDNY Bureau of Fleet Services in 2014.
“Behind the thousands of calls our members respond to every day is a team of dedicated and skilled mechanics who ensure our ambulances are running 24/7,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, in a statement released on Instagram. “James Villecco was one of those truly unsung heroes in our Department whose outstanding work provided medical care for the people of our city. The entire Department mourns his loss.”
Mayor de Blasio acknowledged his death during his press conference on Sunday. "This is the kind of man who keeps us safe because he kept the ambulances in good repair so they could get there to help all of us," the mayor said. "We grieve with his family in Staten Island."