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OpinionEditorial

Focus on the goal: To beat COVID-19

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on Monday, April 6, 2020. Credit: Office of the Governor.

There is a right way and a wrong way to interpret New York State’s coronavirus trend numbers which on Monday showed two days of effectively flat death counts.

The wrong way is to prematurely celebrate this and the dips in daily intubations and new hospitalizations as a definitive “flattening of the curve.” Some good news is comforting, but there are many other possibilities for the coming days: We could be on or approaching a long plateau of around 600 daily deaths, an awful possibility. Or, even worse, those numbers could shoot up even further.

It’s the wrong time to let up on strict enforcement of social distancing and other preventive measures.

The right way to proceed this week is to fight for more gains, and to take personal responsibility for bending the curve.

That’s why Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was correct to keep up the restrictions on gatherings and business activities. And it’s why he was right to call for President Donald Trump to allow COVID-19 patients aboard the USNS Comfort.

The 1,000-bed Navy ship docked in New York Harbor was originally supposed to be a relief valve for the state’s hospitals by taking on non-COVID-19 patients. There was some sense to the premise — allow city hospitals to continue their focus on the sickest of the sick, while the military personnel on the Comfort alleviates the regional case load by taking on the usual emergency room mix of accidents, shootings and other daily traumas.

But hospitals across the city and Long Island are being crushed by the strain of COVID-19 patients. Trump smartly shifted the Comfort’s mission when he said Monday that he would allow coronavirus patients from both New York and hard-hit New Jersey to be treated onboard. He has also now allowed COVID-19 patients to be seen at the medical center created at the Javits Center by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This week in particular, New York needs all the help and capacity it can get.

Another beneficial move to stop a second surge would be the creation of quarantine units where the mildly sick can go to avoid infecting family members at home. The field hospitals under construction at SUNY Old Westbury and Stony Brook University could be good spots if those facilities are not needed for hospital beds. This general idea has been floated and pursued from Wuhan to Los Angeles, with facilities created or reconfigured. New York officials should follow suit.

We are in the heart of this crisis now. This is no time to slow down.

— The editorial board

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