This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, April 2nd, 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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6:35 p.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on the federal government to draft healthcare workers into a "national service," citing fears that the city will soon face a dire shortage of medical professionals.
"I think it's time for our nation to enlist our medical personnel on a national basis," the mayor said during his briefing on Thursday afternoon. "We're going to have to create something new, right now, to enlist all available medical personnel from around the county, and I mean civilians."
"Anyone with medical training anywhere in the country who can be spared by their city and their state and town should come to the front, and right now it’s New York City," he continued.
The city will receive the additional 400 ventilators it needs by Sunday, according to de Blasio, following a "good conversation" with President Trump. But the mayor stressed that such equipment would not be sufficient without a major replenishing of medical workers — including 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists, and 150 doctors by Sunday.
On top of that, the city expects to need between 2,500 and 3,000 additional ventilators by the following week — a "herculean task," the mayor acknowledged.
The calls come as New York City reported 51,809 confirmed cases and 1,397 deaths linked to COVID-19.
De Blasio also announced that the city will begin offering free meals to all New Yorkers. Starting on Friday, hundreds of existing sites already providing food to school children across the five boroughs will open their doors to adults as well.
"You can get all three meals for yourself and your family for free," the mayor promised. "There’s no change and no one will be turned away."
All 438 sites are listed here, and New Yorkers can also text food to 877-877 — or "comida" for Spanish — to find their nearest location. Adults without children should pick up their meals between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Officials also used the briefing to roll out a major new recommendation for all New Yorkers to wear "face coverings" when spending time outside. Read more about that guidance here, as well as some tips for making DIY masks at home.
A Mount Sinai Hospital Director Of Spiritual Care Talks About Tending To Psyches Amid Coronavirus
4:30 p.m. As people infected with coronavirus continue to inundate hospitals, mental health counselors and chaplains are trying to help ease the pressure on doctors, nurses, orderlies and everyone in the health care system. The high rate of “burnout” has been a subject of concern for years, and experts say for those working on the front lines, the constant over-work and exposure to death could cause long-term psychological trauma.
Rabbi Jo Hirschmann, the director of spiritual care and education at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, has been working long hours, too. She and her colleagues roam the hospital wards, speaking to both patients and workers – everyone from orderlies to clerical staff to attending physicians. Her colleagues, she said, have been approaching her more and more to share their anxieties and ask for her guidance and prayers. She sat down with Jami Floyd, host of All Things Considered on WNYC. This is a condensed version of their conversation.
Rabbi, we get the impression that there is a lot of adrenalin, a lot of pressure, a lot of struggling to keep up in these health care facilities. Can you describe the scene?
This is not something that any of us really expected to see in our lifetimes or in our careers. It is a hard time. We’re providing support to staff and patients, many of whom are feeling scared and isolated. The intensity and the percentage of our time that [talking to staff] is taking up right now has changed a lot. Staff are really receptive to talking to us. They want to talk, and they’re asking us for blessings, for protection for themselves and their patients.
What effect does this new social isolation that we're all experiencing have on the ways in which health care workers are reacting to this crisis? Like the rest of us, when they go home, they're either alone or isolated with their immediate families. Is that exacerbating the problem?
When I ask staff what's helping you keep going right now, I'm struck by how many reference spirituality or religious practice. I'm also really struck by how much people are saying that what keeps them going is their colleagues and work. They feel useful, like we have a real purpose in this incredibly difficult crisis. It’s very motivating.
Is it impacting the psychology and spirit of these health care workers, knowing that their colleagues are getting sick and some will lose their lives?
There’s no question that staff are scared. It’s also a window to their sense of sacrifice—and suggests there will need to be long-term work to really make sure that once this crisis is over, that the people who are on the front lines really get good mental health services and really have the opportunity to to heal.
How do you protect yourself physically while ministering to health care workers and patients—and how are you doing, personally?
We are not going in patients rooms. Everyone wears masks in order to protect ourselves and each other. And in terms of how I'm doing, I think like a lot of my health care colleagues, I'm turning to sources of connection that have always sustained me: my synagogue community and my family and friends. I meditate, and I'm grateful to have those people and practices, even if a lot of those relationships are now happening remotely.
By Fred Mogul
Cuomo Calls Increase In Long Island Coronavirus Cases "Concerning"
1:45 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that Long Island has emerged as a concerning hot spot for COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases there nears 20,000.
Speaking at his daily press conference, Cuomo called the recent uptick in cases "very troubling." According to data released by the state, 10,587 people in Nassau County and 8,746 in Suffolk County have tested positive for the virus. That's nearly half of all confirmed cases outside of New York City, which remains the epicenter of the public health crisis.
An analysis from Newsday has shown that the positive results are concentrated in some of Long Island's densest communities, including Brentwood, Huntington Station, Woodmere, and Hempstead. Immigrant populations in those areas may be particularly hard hit, advocates warned, in part due to a lack of health insurance and fears of seeking care.
Meanwhile, Long Island's East End towns have seen a surge in residents, thanks to New Yorkers fleeing the city for summer homes. Officials in Southold, East Hampton and Southampton are asking city residents to steer clear, amid concerns the visitors could spread the virus and strain limited health resources.
"We have just one hospital," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell told ABC-7. "There's much more difficult access to healthcare now."
Group Launches Hotline To Provide Student Resources
IntegrateNYC, a New York City-based student coalition that has been fighting for public school integration, has started a hotline to provide students with resources related to housing, food, healthcare, educational access (internet), community, and legal services.
New York City public schools officially closed on Monday, March 16th. The move has disrupted the lives of teachers, administrators and approximately 1.1 million students, who are now forced to navigate distance or online learning.
Sarah Zapiler, the executive director of the organization, said IntegrateNYC had surveyed over 700 K-12 students about their immediate needs. They spoke about concerns over a wide range of issues, including food access, housing, xenophobia, tests, MetroCards, grades, internet access, home responsibilities, over policing, safe space access, and tools for students with disabilities.
"This pandemic is really uncovering the way that, what was normal was part of the problem," Zapiler told Gothamist / WNYC.
The hotline began on Wednesday. It features a recorded menu of options that allow listeners to access information on various topics. The messages will be updated weekly and available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic.
"What we’ve found is when youth provide something directly to youth, that can make a really big impact in terms of how much it’s trusted or used," Zapiler said. "So we hope to better facilitate the connection to these resources."
The hotline number is (951)-INTEGR8 or (951-468-3478).
Reporting by Shumita Basu
NY State Has 6 Days Until It Runs Out Of Ventilators
12:30 p.m. At the current rate of use by critically ill coronavirus patients, New York state will run out of life-saving ventilators in six days, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The state currently has 2,200 ventilators available in its stockpile.
During his daily press conference, Cuomo acknowledged that the projected shortage as well as the burn rate of ventilators is "troubling." The six-day estimate could change depending on when the apex of cases hits, which has been calculated as occurring anywhere between 7 to 30 days from now, according to various projection models.
"If a person comes in and needs a ventilator, and you don't have a ventilator, the person dies," he said. "That's the blunt equation here."
Cuomo said the state would continue to try to buy ventilators and also allow hospitals to convert other devices like anesthesia machines and try splitting existing ventilators so that one can be shared by two people. The state has also acquired 3,000 BiPap machines, a moderate form of breathing support typically used for people with sleep apnea, but which hospitals say may be adapted for coronavirus patients.
"We have researched every possibility, every idea, every measure you can possibly take to find ventilators," he said.
The state has said it will pay companies a premium for the equipment, which cost roughly $25,000 apiece. To date, New York has received 4,400 ventilators from the federal government, far short of the 37,000 Cuomo says it still needs.
"Our attitude is we’re on our own," Cuomo said, although he added that he thought the federal government "would do anything they can do to help."
Statewide there are now 92,381 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 8,669 over the previous day. Since Wednesday, 432 people have died from coronavirus statewide, a new record number of deaths over a 24-hour period.
The governor said the state had released 400 ventilators to New York City and 200 to Long Island and Westchester County.
On Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio said the city needed at least 400 ventilators to ensure that hospitals would have enough through the week of April 5th.
The state has also begun building two more makeshift hospitals. One is at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, which will open this week with 750 beds. The other will be at a Staten Island Psych Center, which will open next week as a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients only. It was not immediately clear which patients the Red Hook hospital would treat.
In a slight diversion from the mostly depressing news, Thursday's press conference included an appearance via video from the governor's younger brother and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor commended his younger brother for continuing to broadcast his show while sick, saying he was doing a public service.
The brothers routinely trade jabs on Chris Cuomo's television show. Thursday was no different.
"I love you, I'll enjoy watching this now that I know it's a regular thing...because I'm stuck in a basement," the younger Cuomo said.
Weekly Jobless Claims Soar To 6.6 Million In U.S., 366,000 In New York State
More than 6.6 million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits last week, setting a staggering new high as shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic wreak havoc on the economy.
The latest numbers, reported by the Department of Labor, come after 3.3 million claims for the week ending March 21st, which means that together, nearly 10 million have filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks.
Paul Krugman, an economist and New York Times columnist, noted that the figure was "around 20 times the normal rate, and understates actual job losses." Under recently passed legislation, part-time and gig workers, contractors and some who wouldn't normally qualify for unemployment compensation can now apply. But those who are undocumented are still not eligible.
Economists have said that the country is headed for an economic slowdown that could rival that of the Great Depression. Just last week, President Donald Trump said he wanted the shutdowns to end and for the nation's economy to be "opened up and raring to go" by Easter. He has since retracted that position, acknowledging the seriousness of the outbreaks.
Here in New York, 366,000 people filed new unemployment claims, compared to an average of 15,845 in 2019. Last week's number was nearly 80,000, which many considered too low. The New York State Department of Labor has struggled to field an unprecedented number of calls, with over seven million calls coming in last week. Many New Yorkers have complained of not being able to get through to the office, and the state's unemployment website has repeatedly crashed, leading Governor Andrew Cuomo to apologize this week.