Newsday is opening this story to all readers so Long Islanders have access to important information about the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.
This story was reported by John Asbury, Catherine Carrera, Matthew Chayes, Anthony M. DeStefano, Joan Gralla and Craig Schneider. It was written by Schneider.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Saturday that the New York presidential primary will be pushed back from April 28 to June 23 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The governor moved the timing of the primary to align with the congressional and legislative primaries in New York.
“I don’t think it’s wise to be bringing a lot of people to one location to vote, a lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen,” Cuomo said during a news conference.
Meanwhile, the onslaught of new COVID-19 cases and fatalities continues. There were 52,318 cases of the virus in New York State as of Saturday, Cuomo said, with 728 deaths. That's an increase of more than 7,000 cases statewide from the previous day, and a one-day increase of more than 200 deaths.
On Long Island, there were more than 9,600 total cases reported, with 15 new deaths.
A Nassau County worker was among the new fatalities, as well as a seventh resident of Peconic Landing, the hard-hit retirement and continuing-care community in Greenport.
Cuomo noted that those who died tend to be older and those with underlying respiratory and immune system problems.
"That doesn't make you feel any better," he said. "These people are lost. They are lost due to this virus. These are people who would be with us if not for this virus."
In New York City on Saturday, there were 30,765 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 672 deaths, according to city government officials. One of the city's leaders, MTA chairman Patrick Foye, announced he has the virus.
Foye found out Saturday that he tested positive, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief communications officer Abbey Collins said in a statement.
“Pat is currently isolating at home, feeling good and maintaining his full schedule,” Collins said in a statement. “Pat was last in the office on Wednesday, maintained a safe social distance and was asymptomatic at that time. He worked remotely Thursday and Friday, following a previously arranged schedule.”
The MTA said Wednesday that more than 50 of the transit agency’s employees had tested positive for the virus.
An NYPD detective assigned to a Harlem police precinct died from the virus, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Saturday. Cedric G. Dixon had been with the NYPD for 23 years and was assigned to the 32nd Precinct, Shea said.
Dixon, a Bronx resident, is believed to be the first NYPD officer to die from the virus.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced eight new COVID-19-related deaths, including the first death of a county worker, bringing the total for the county to 35, her office said.
Nassau's total number of positive cases grew by 880 Saturday, to 5,537 cases, since March 5.
Suffolk had seven new deaths attributed to the virus, all in people with underlying health conditions, which brings the number up to 30 total deaths in the county, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
Suffolk had 753 new confirmed positive cases, bringing the total number to 4,138, Bellone said.
“The numbers have risen again significantly over the last 24 hours,” Bellone said.
Four new medical sites in NYC
Cuomo, in his daily briefing, said President Donald Trump approved four new sites for emergency medical facilities earlier Saturday. All four are to be at New York City locations: Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, CUNY Staten Island and the NY Expo Center in the Bronx.
Cuomo said that expansion would add 4,000 beds toward the goal of the state reaching 140,000 hospital beds at the apex of the outbreak, which he said could come in 14 to 21 days.
Minutes after Trump floated the possibility of a quarantine for the New York region, Cuomo on Saturday dismissed the idea, calling it “unworkable.”
Later Saturday night, on CNN, Cuomo said a possible New York quarantine “would be a federal declaration of war on states" and would paralyze the economy. “It would be exactly opposite everything ... [the president] has said and everything he has done to date. And it would be wholly counterproductive.”
Cuomo offered some rare good news in his briefing Saturday, but cautioned people to not put too much stock in it.
The governor noted that the number of new daily ICU cases in New York decreased from 374 on Thursday to 172 on Friday. But he noted that the overall trend in these cases is still rising.
Some other good news: The number of new hospitalizations in the state decreased from 1,154 on Thursday to 847 on Friday, he said. But here too, the overall trend is still going up, he said.
"You could argue the trend is slowing," Cuomo said. "I say follow the numbers."
Cuomo said the hospital systems need to work together, in that when one hospital becomes overwhelmed — running low on supplies or beds — it should be able to look for help from another health system.
He said the state might step in to facilitate this, potentially moving some downstate patients to upstate hospitals.
The governor also announced that the State Department of Health Wadsworth Lab is working in partnership with other labs to evaluate antibody testing that is designed to help very sick COVID-19 patients.
The USNS Comfort is expected to arrive in New York City on Monday, he said. That will provide 1,000 new beds and additional medical personnel.
Continued focus on ventilators
Cuomo said the country "has been behind this virus since Day One. You don't win on defense, you win on offense."
He said the nation must come together on purchasing materials that are needed, rather than the current situation in which one state is literally competing against other states — and consequently driving up the prices.
Each public crisis necessitates its own materials, Cuomo said, and with COVID-19, the great need is for ventilators, he stressed.
The alternative to a ventilator is what medical personnel call a bag valve mask, which fits over a person's face and repeatedly must be squeezed by hand to keep it working. The state already has purchased 3,000 of them and has ordered an additional 4,000, he said.
But this is not an acceptable alternative to ventilators, he said, since it would require numerous people switching on and off to help keep a person breathing.
He addressed recent statements by Trump that questioned whether New York actually needs 30,000 additional ventilators, the number that Cuomo has been requesting.
"So we're planning for that quote-unquote worst-case scenario, which the models predict," Cuomo said. "Maybe we never get there, maybe we flatten the curve and we slow the infection rate so we never get to that point and that's what we're trying to do and we're working on that day and night."
Cuomo also said medical personnel are administering 1,100 tests of hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax, a prescription Trump has said he is optimistic about.
"We hope to be optimistic also, but we're now using it on a large-scale basis, particularly in the New York City hospitals, and we'll be getting results soon," Cuomo said.
The toll in Nassau, Suffolk
At Peconic Landing, the seventh death was a 90-year-old woman at The Shores for Skilled Nursing. She died Friday evening after receiving treatment for symptoms of COVID-19 at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital since March 14.
Of the new deaths in Suffolk, the youngest was a man in his 50s who died at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, and the oldest were two women in their 90s, Bellone said.
Bellone said that of the positive cases in Suffolk, 16% are people over age 65.
“These are moms and dads, grandmothers, granddads, friends and neighbors,” he said.
As of Saturday, 409 people were hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus in Suffolk, up from 331 patients on Friday, Bellone said.
There were 139 patients in an intensive care unit, or ICU, on Saturday, up from 119 on Friday, Bellone said.
“The trend is clear, the trajectory is clear, and it is pointing us toward the surge that is coming at our health system,” he said.
In Nassau, Curran said the new deaths included a 65-year-old woman who worked for the county’s department of social services temporary assistance program. The woman was not identified.
“She devoted her career to helping families in times of need,” Curran said. “We grieve her loss and are with her family.”
Other Nassau deaths include five men and two women, ranging in age from 56 to 92 years old.
Nassau County had 906 hospitalized cases of positive and pending COVID-19 cases as of Friday night. The county has a total of 185 ventilators available, and as of Friday night had 133 patients on ventilators with 52 still available. She said she expected the number of available ventilators to decrease.
The county placed an emergency order for an additional 100 ventilators expected to arrive in 10 days, but officials were seeking to expedite the shipment.
“The patients that are coming in are coming in more sick,” Curran said. “Each of our hospital leaders have highlighted the need for ventilators, personal protection equipment and staff.”
Curran said hospitals are in more need of specialists like respiratory therapists. She said hospitals are able to meet the need for additional beds, but need specialists to work ventilators. The county is seeking nursing agencies and converting anesthesia machines into ventilators.
Hospitals are seeing symptomatic patients every hour, and one hospital saw its intake increase 12-fold, Curran said.
“Hospitals are encouraging people to stay home if you can,” Curran said. “If you’re mildly symptomatic, you know how to take care of yourself with a bad cold or the flu. Please do it the same way and stay home.”
Nassau County police have recorded 55 positive cases among officers and staff, with 144 members of the police department in precautionary quarantine.
The Nassau sheriff’s department has 10 correction officers who tested positive in addition to one deputy, with 26 deputies in quarantine. Intake officers are wearing masks when processing inmates.
The county has three inmates at the Nassau County jail who have tested positive and been quarantined in a new isolated housing area, Curran said. The jail also has 13 inmates in precautionary quarantine.
In other developments:
- Despite a rainy weekend forecast, officials warned New Yorkers on Saturday not to overcrowd state parks and preserves because they could spread the virus to each other.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a warning Saturday about scams related to the federal stimulus package passed by Congress. Her office has received reports of scammers attempting to steal personal and financial information by using the news that the federal government will send payments to people across the country, she said in a statement. “The latest example involves scammers pretending to be from the federal government and preying on individuals who desperately need financial support right now," James said. She said scammers may use emails, texts, or web pages that look like they are from the federal government. People should never give personal information or financial information out to someone unless they are absolutely sure who they are.
- In Suffolk County, 60 police recruits — after two weeks of accelerated training — on Monday will start checking on nonessential businesses to ensure they stay closed, and walking their beats to enforce social distancing, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Friday.
TO HELP IN CORONAVIRUS FIGHT
- NASSAU COUNTY: The Nassau County Police Department is requesting medical supplies, including N95 surgical masks, eye protection, Nitrile rubber gloves, disposable gowns, shoe covers, no-touch thermometers, HEPA filters for ventilators and anesthesia machines, antibacterial and disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. Donations will be accepted at Field 3 of Eisenhower Park on Park Boulevard in Westbury. Collection hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from March 30 to April 3.
- SUFFOLK COUNTY: In Suffolk County, a medical safety equipment drive is ongoing, officials said. The county is collecting gloves, N95 masks, gowns, ear loop masks and other medical supplies. Donations can be dropped between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays at the Suffolk County Fire Academy, located at 102 East Ave. in Yaphank. For large donations of supplies, email FRESfinance@suffolkcountyny.gov.
- LONG ISLAND: The New York Blood Center said it is in urgent need of donors, since coronavirus concerns have resulted in "critically low blood and platelet appointments" across Long Island. The NYBC has six centers in Nassau and Suffolk and said safety protocols are in place as they urge healthy individuals, not exposed to the virus, to donate. The NYBC said if you are unsure if you can donate, you can ask their experts at 800-688-0900.
- STONY BROOK HOSPITAL: Stony Brook University Hospital is accepting donated items that would help comfort their COVID-19 patients, including puzzles, activity books, pens, colored pencils, sleep masks, aromatherapy, ear plugs, as well as donations of iPads for telehealth, or medical supplies. For donations drop-off, schedule an appointment, emailing COVID19donations@stonybrook.edu or calling 631-219-0603.
SOURCES: Nassau County, New York Blood Center, Suffolk County, Stony Brook Hospital