By Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault
(Reuters) – Hospitalizations of people with the novel coronavirus fell for a second day in New York which will send ventilators to Michigan and Maryland, further signs that the hardest-hit U.S. state is gaining some control over the outbreak, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.
Cuomo disclosed an outline of his plan to reopen New York’s shuttered economy, starting with the most essential businesses, and said he would order people to wear masks in public when a safe distance from others could not be maintained.
Speaking at media briefings on Wednesday, Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont talked about achieving a new normal as opposed to returning to life as it was before the coronavirus outbreak. Cuomo stressed that the crisis would not be over until a vaccine was developed some 12 to 18 months from now.
Neighboring New York and New Jersey account for more than half of the 30,000-plus deaths across the United States from COVID-19. Connecticut, east of New York, saw deaths tick up by 197 in the state’s largest one-day gain on Wednesday.
Cuomo, who on Monday declared that New York had passed the worst stage of the pandemic, said he would look to open up first those businesses that were most essential and where spread of the virus could be minimized. Both Cuomo and Murphy said rapid, mass-scale testing were critical to getting people back to work.
“We need to build a bridge toward a reopening of the economy,” Cuomo said. “We are going to a different place – a new normal.”
Cuomo said that a total of 18,335 people were hospitalized across New York because of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, down from 18,697 a day earlier, which had marked the first decline since the crisis began.
However, patients newly admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 came to 2,253 on Tuesday, up from 1,649 a day earlier, while 752 deaths were recorded, hovering around the same high level they have been at for the past week. He said New York, which in recent weeks has been pleading for hospital ventilators, is now planning to send 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to Maryland.
Contrary to the trend in New York, hospitalizations in New Jersey rose slightly to 8,270, with an additional 2,625 coronavirus cases recorded on Wednesday for a total of 71,030. The number of people who died rose by 351 to 3,156.
“Sometimes we think we’ve rounded the bend in a permanent way, but it’s uneven,” Lamont said.
Cuomo repeated a call for the federal government to help roll out rapid testing on a mass scale.
“We cannot do the testing and tracing without federal assistance,” Cuomo said.
Murphy said a “robust” contact tracing program and widely-used testing gauges that give quick results, such as the saliva-based test developed at Rutgers University in his state, were pre-conditions to restarting the economy. The test was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulator.
“You’ve got to have both of those elements in place, or I don’t think you can reopen.”
On Monday, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island agreed to work together to devise strategies for easing stay-at-home orders and getting people back to work.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani, Jessica Resnick-Ault, and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)