This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, David Olson and David Reich-Hale.
Northwell Health on Thursday said it has crossed a milestone in its COVID-19 patient count, as the number has dipped below 1,000 for the first time since March.
The health system said it has 986 COVID-19 patients at its 19 hospitals, the lowest since it had 838 on March 24. A day later, the number of coronavirus patients had spiked to 1,063.
Northwell added that it’s seen a 23% reduction in patients since the same period a week ago.
The hospital has 2,000 patients who are not hospitalized for the coronavirus, said Terry Lynam, a Northwell spokesman.
“We still have plenty of space available,” Lynam said. “We have 1,800 beds that are not in use. If you exclude the extra beds we had to create, we still are only three-quarters full.”
Northwell said it had 676 COVID-19 patients on Long Island, a 24% week-over-week fall.
A cautious return
During a Newsday webinar Thursday, Dr. Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, vice chair of clinical research in the anesthesiology department of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, discussed how the public needs to steel themselves for the long term, in which parts of the economy will reopen but life cannot return to what it was before the pandemic.
“It’s really, really exhausting to live like this,” he said. “But I think that the end is not in sight right now. I think that we’re going to need to be vigilant, be tough.”
When businesses and other parts of society reopen, there should be widespread coronavirus testing, and people need to “make sure that they’re wearing masks, that they’re washing their hands, that they’re protecting themselves but also not infecting others,” he said “So I think this is going to be a tough time the next few months, especially with the nice weather coming up. Everyone’s going to want to be out in parks, and with each other, and doing things and having barbecues.”
Bennett-Guerrero said he and his wife recently have been discussing the safety of their 14-year-old son participating in summer camps, if they are resumed. Parents will have to make judgment calls as to how much risk is acceptable, he said. A camp that, for example, tests all kids and counselors when they arrive and that quarantines anyone with a fever or any illness is probably safer than camps that do not, he said.
“It’s really going to boil down to a personal decision every parent is going to need to make,” he said.
Dr. Bettina Fries, chief of infectious diseases at Stony Brook Medicine, said the ideal would be cheap coronavirus tests that can be done at home or in offices, so people who are asymptomatic — people who don’t show symptoms to a coronavirus infection comprise a large number of those with the virus — stay home and don’t potentially infect others.
Families that take summer vacations should consider a car trip to, for example, go camping, rather than take an airplane somewhere, she said. If you do fly, which carries a risk that is still unclear, make sure to wear a mask and a face shield, she said.
“Many of us will have to use mass transportation in the near future, and so we need to find solutions how we can take mass transportation and be safe,” she said. “I think the most important thing is to wear a mask, wear a shield if possible, and just make sure when you leave mass transportation, the first thing you do is wash your hands.”
When offices reopen, people will have to sit further away from each other and wear masks, because the spit that comes out of our mouths when talking can transmit the virus, she said. If you eventually have people over to your home, also wear a mask, she said.
“We just need to adjust to this new reality until we have a more permanent solution,” she said.
Expanding testing in NYC
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that he wants to broaden who should be tested for coronavirus — a change from his early directive that tests be limited only to the most dire cases.
Those who should be tested, he said, include anyone with symptoms, anyone in close contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient and those who work in a “congregate residential setting” — a nursing home, a shelter, an adult care facility — regardless of symptoms.
He said test sites are listed at nyc.gov/covidtest.
De Blasio also promised to reconsider how the city enforces state rules requiring social distancing and face coverings.
“We have to figure out a plan and a protocol that works,” de Blasio said, adding: “It’s clear we have to improve the supervision, the training, the protocols, the game plan for a very complex situation and not create unnecessary tension between our police and our communities.”
His remarks came after another viral video emerged of a rough arrest by the NYPD of someone who apparently wasn’t obeying the rules, this time a woman traveling with a young child at a Brooklyn subway station. After she refused to properly wear a mask, and was told to leave, there was an altercation during her departure in which the woman was forced to the ground by several officers and arrested, according to the video.
“Enforcement needs to be with a light touch, and overwhelmingly it has been,” de Blasio said. “But we’ve seen a few situations where that wasn’t the case and were deeply troubling. We saw another video last night. And like every human situation, there are complexities, but what was not complex at all was, it shouldn’t have gone down that way, period.”
The city is expected to lose around $7 billion in tax revenue over the next year — on top of the same amount lost since the coronavirus crisis began in March, de Blasio said Thursday morning on CNN.
De Blasio said a $17 billion bailout over two years, which is included in a $3 trillion stimulus package proposed by House Democrats, is “a very realistic figure.”
“I guarantee you, and I hate saying it, the lost revenue alone over the next few years will likely be $17 billion,” the mayor said. “This is just getting us back to the point where we can run our government, provide the basic services, keep the people who have been the heroes in this crisis.”
De Blasio has cautioned that the city would need to furlough or lay off municipal workers absent a bailout.
The mayor also said if the rates of coronavirus infection and hospitalization continue to decline, the city could begin as early as next month to allow some businesses — including nonessential retail establishments — to reopen, albeit “with a lot of social distancing, with a lot of precautions in place, where people do not have to gather in tight spaces, in large numbers, where people can go and do what they do without creating a health danger.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported Wednesday that most coronavirus health indicators continued to head in the right direction, with total hospitalizations and intubations down, though members of a local reopening panel said the phased return of the local economy could be weeks away.
There were 166 new deaths from the virus, the third straight day the figure was below 200, and down from a peak of nearly 800 a month ago.
Nassau County on Wednesday reported 13 new deaths, for a total of 2,004. Suffolk reported 26 new deaths, for a total of 1,680. New York City reported 81 new deaths, for a total of 14,881.
The number of new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals was reported on Wednesday to be 416, the third straight day the figure fell below 500 and a sharp drop from the peak of about 3,200. The total number of COVID-19 patients recorded in hospitals, 6,946, marked the first time in weeks that figure was below 7,000, and was far below the peak of nearly 19,000.
Nassau on Wednesday reported 153 new coronavirus cases, for a total of 38,587, according to state figures. Suffolk reported 243 new cases, for a total of 37,305. New York City reported 1,127 new cases, for a total of 187,250. New York State as a whole added 2,176 new cases, for a total of 340,661.
Check back for updates on this developing story.