By Maria Caspani and Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday that a recent drop in hospitalizations and other improving metrics indicated the state may be past the peak of its coronavirus crisis and on a path toward stabilizing its battered healthcare system.

Cuomo’s cautiously upbeat report at a daily briefing came as the daily death toll across the state, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, dropped to 540 on April 17, down from 630 a day earlier and the lowest in more than two weeks.

The governor said total hospitalizations of patients being treated for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, came to 16,967, a drop of more than 1,300 over the past three days. Intubations and admissions to intensive care units also continued on their downward trend.

“If you look at the past three days, you could argue that we are past the plateau and we’re starting to descend which would be very good news,” Cuomo said.

He said, however, that about 2,000 infected people were newly admitted to hospitals on Friday, which he characterized as “still an overwhelming number,” and reiterated that he would take a cautious approach to reopening businesses and schools.

Cuomo repeated a call for the federal government to help coordinate and provide funding for the mass testing that he and other governors have said is needed to determine when it is safe for people to go back to work.

Providing new details on the challenge, Cuomo said a survey of labs in his state revealed an inability to procure the chemical reagents needed to run the tests on machines supplied by private manufacturers like Roche Holding AG.

“They bought the machine, they have the machine, they have the test, but they need the reagents to do a higher volume of tests,” Cuomo said, adding that makers like Roche are struggling to get the reagents from China. “That’s the logjam we are in.”

New York disclosed 7,090 new positive cases over the last 24 hours for a total of 236,732 cases, while deaths increased by 540 to 13,362, marking by far the largest number of fatalities of any state.

Even with stabilizing numbers, Cuomo said the pandemic was taking a severe emotional and economic toll on people, and estimated the impact on society would prove to be the biggest challenge facing the country since World War Two.

“On every level this is a terrible experience, Cuomo said. “It is as tumultuous a time as we have ever seen.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Conn., and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)