This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, March 28th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here. Our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY’s stay-at-home order, is here; a look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

You can send us tips/questions/comments at tips@gothamist.com.

“It Would Be Mayhem”: Cuomo Pushes Back On Quarantine Talk

During a 5:30 p.m. appearance on CNN, Governor Cuomo reiterated his position that the mere concept of a quarantine on New York State—or any other state—is, well, crazy.

“I do not believe it’s going to come to that on this,” Cuomo told Ana Cabrera. “I’ve been speaking to the president. This would be a declaration of war on states. A federal declaration of war. And it wouldn’t just be New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Next week it would be Louisiana with New Orleans, and the week after that it would be Detroit, Michigan, and it would run all across the nation. And I don’t think the president is looking to start a lot of wars with a lot of states just about now for a lot of reasons.”

President Trump had raised the possibility of a quarantine earlier on Saturday morning, noting that Florida’s governor was concerned about people from New York bringing the coronavirus to the Sunshine State. Cuomo dismissed the idea, claiming it’s essentially what’s going on in New York now anyway. “We started a mandatory isolation. You stay home unless you’re an essential worker. So we’re doing that and I think that makes sense.”

When Cabrera specifically asked about a possible restriction on travel to New York, the governor scoffed, “That would be a lockdown. If you said that we are geographically confining people, that would be a lockdown. Then we would be Wuhan, China, right? And that wouldn’t make any sense. This is a time when the President says he’s trying to restart the economy, New York is the financial sector. You geographically restrict a state you would paralyze the financial sector. You think the Dow Jones, the stock market has gone down – it would drop like a stone. I don’t even believe it’s legal. Interstate commerce clause, et cetera… You say you can’t come to New York to do business; business people can’t leave New York to go to Chicago for a meeting. I mean, it would be chaos and mayhem. And that would drop this economy in a way, I think, that wouldn’t recover for months if not years.”

In his appearance, Cuomo also made sure to appeal to the president’s ego, surmising, “I think it would be exactly opposite of everything the President is talking about. How would you ever operationally stop goods from coming to New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and food and trucks, et cetera? I can’t believe he’s considering that,” and repeating concerns that it could be very bad for financial markets, “I know the president’s very concerned about what’s happened to the stock market. We all are. I am as governor of New York. Every person who has a retirement fund and has watched it dropped is concerned. So why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea.”

The governor remained confident that the quarantine talk was just that—talk. “Look if the president was considering this, I guarantee he would have called me,” he insisted. “I mean we talk about relatively trivial matters when it comes to dealing with this situation. This – this is civil war-kind of discussion.”

Update, 8:45 p.m.: The president agrees that a quarantine won’t be necessary:

Cuomo Skeptical Of Trump’s Quarantine Suggestion For NY, NJ, And Connecticut

President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of quarantines for residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. New York has the most cases, with 52, 318, and New Jersey follows with 11,124.

President Trump, under an umbrella and wearing a suit and coat, speaks to reporters on March 28, 2020
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President Trump on March 28, 2020 Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

Before stepping onto Marine One to visit the USNS Comfort—the hospital ship that is headed for New York—in Norfolk, Virginia, Trump told reporters, “Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot—New York, New Jersey. Maybe one or two other places; certain parts of Connecticut quarantined. I’m thinking about that right now.”

He suggested that a “short-term, two-week” quarantine for those areas could be possible, and explained that Florida Governor Rick DeSantis was worried about New Yorkers heading South. “They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” Trump said. He added, “This would be an enforceable quarantine. And, you know, I’d rather not do it, but we may need it.”

When asked about Trump’s remarks, Cuomo was disdainful and dismissive, telling reporters, “I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine… I haven’t had those conversations. I don’t even know what that means.​”

Another reporter asked if a “tri-state quarantine” was “a sound policy from your perspective or would you advise against it,” Cuomo repeated, “I don’t even know what that means.”

“I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable and, from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing, but I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it,” he said. “Not even understanding what it is, I don’t like the sound of it.​”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on quarantines, the federal government “is authorized to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states.” Also, “It is possible for federal, state, local, and tribal health authorities to have and use all at the same time separate but coexisting legal quarantine power in certain events. In the event of a conflict, federal law is supreme.”

New Jersey Cases Reach 11,124

New Jersey announced over 2,000 more coronavirus cases on Saturday, noting its total is now 11, 124, making it the second most-cases in the country after New York. Bergen County has the most cases, with 1,838.

Additionally, another 32 people have died from COVID-19, with total deaths in the state at 140.

Governor Phil Murphy revealed a plan to offer home owners a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments. He Tweeted, “This grace period CANNOT and WILL NOT be used to downgrade anyone’s credit rating. Lenders will also waive any late fees, or other costs which would otherwise arise, because of this 90-day grace period.”

He also had a message for renters, “To any renter facing eviction, let me be clear – under an executive order your landlord cannot kick you out of your home during this emergency. For any landlord who is getting mortgage relief today – we expect you will in turn provide similar relief to your tenants,” adding, “To every landlord – now is a time to show some compassion, and to work with your renters to ensure they stay safe. You cannot evict anyone at this time. If you try to, we’re not going to take that lightly, and we will make an example out of you for violating the law.”

Also, some New Jersey residents do not under social distancing:

NYPD Detective Dies From Coronavirus

The NYPD marked its third death, and first officer death, from COVID-19. The department announced that Detective Cyrus Dixon of the 32nd Precinct in Harlem died from the disease on Saturday.

On Thursday, the police announced that Dennis Dickson, a custodian at Police Headquarters, died in Brooklyn, noting that he had been “on the front line cleaning and disinfecting 1 Police Plaza so that our personnel could be here safely, allowing them to continue to serve the people of the City Of New York.” Giacomina Barr-Brown died on Friday; she worked at the 49th Precinct Roll Call Office in the Bronx, “where she helped to ensure that patrol and administrative assignments were adequately covered on a daily basis,” the police said.

Dixon was a 23-year veteran. “He was known as the person who would do anything to help you,” and was particularly fond of helping fix electronics, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who spent the morning speaking to Dixon’s colleagues, described.

Shea also said that first responders don’t have the opportunity to isolate and thanked their families for their sacrifices. “To the men and women of the NYC police department, God bless you and thank you for your service…. you represent what’s right in the world,” he said.

On Friday, in a Twitter video, Shea revealed that 4,100 uniformed officers were out sick, with 550 positive cases among the NYPD’s combined uniformed and civilian employees,

Cuomo Orders All Hospitals In New York To Allow Women In Labor To Have A Support Person

Governor Cuomo said on Saturday he would issue an executive order requiring all hospitals in the state to allow women in labor to have an essential support person accompany them into the delivery room.

The mandate comes less than a week after two major New York City hospital systems, NewYork-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai, announced new restrictive visitors policies that would not have allowed partners or any support person to accompany women about to give birth. The measures were designed to limit the risk of infection within maternity wards and the hospitals themselves.

The state Department of Health had previously issued guidance to hospitals on March 21 on the issue, stating that it considers one support person “essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period.” On Friday, the state strengthened the recommendation, by changing the guidance to a directive.

The decision by NewYork Presbyterian and Mount Sinai earlier this week immediately set off a wave of fear and anxiety among expectant women and couples set to delivery within their hospitals as well as others who were worried that other hospital networks would follow suit. Many women said they were considering changing their delivery plans, including switching hospitals or finding a midwife to perform an at-home birth.

Doula Jesse Pournaras understands the safety concerns, but feels that exceptions should be made for people who share a household. “If you are living with someone, you should be seen as a unit of infection risk rather than as an individual infection risk,” she told us.

“We will comply with the Executive Order regarding visitors for obstetric patients, effective immediately,” said a spokesperson for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. “Our highest priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of our patients, their families, and our staff.”

A spokesperson for Mount Sinai said, “In partnership with New York State, effective today, we will permit one healthy partner to join the expectant mother for labor and delivery. We have always – and will always – make these difficult decisions with the best of intentions and safety of the mother, baby and our staff as our guiding principle.”

Dr. Neel Shah, an obstetrician who teaches at Harvard Medical School, said, “Literally, my favorite part of my job is getting to introduce new families to their babies.” But he disagreed with the executive order, explaining that despite higher safety outcomes when a partner is present, hospitals should be allowed to temporarily restrict outsiders—especially because protective gear is in short supply right now.

“It’s important that we make the right difficult decisions now while we still have a window to make a difference,” Shah said.

-Reporting by Shumita Basu

This has been updated to reflect comments from NewYork-Prebyterian and Mount Sinai Hospitals.

Governor Cuomo holds a valve bag that would need to be manually operated during his March 28, 2020 presser
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Governor Cuomo Finally Moves April Presidential Primary To June; Statewide Cases Now At 52,318

After recommendations from New York state lawmakers and a bipartisan group of election administrators to move the presidential primary, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the April 28th election will be moved to June 23rd, when the federal primary is already scheduled to be held.

“I don’t think it’s wise to bring people to one location,” using the same pen or touching tablets, Cuomo said during his Saturday press conference. The governor claimed he wanted to do that all along anyway, instead of having so many elections scattered.

The early voting period for the April presidential primary would have started April 18th, just after the “apex” of coronavirus cases that Cuomo expects to overwhelm New York hospitals.

The state tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15th, which Cuomo said would be bad for the state’s revenue.

New York state has 52,318 coronavirus cases, with 728 deaths. Currently, 7,328 are hospitalized, with 1,755 in intensive care. Cuomo pointed out that 2,726 patients have been discharged. Still, the state has more than five times the cases than the next state, which is New Jersey, currently at 8,825 cases.

Cuomo spoke to President Donald Trump before the press conference, and the president approved four new, 1,000-bed hospital sites at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal; the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens; CUNY Staten Island; and the New York Expo Center in the Bronx. This, with the new 1,000-bed site at the Javits Center in Manhattan, ensures there will be additional emergency hospitals in each borough.

Again, the governor stressed the acute need for ventilators, emphasizing how for non-coronavirus illnesses, patients only need them for 3-4 days, but COVID-19 patients have needed them for 11-21 days. He took out a bag valve mask, which would have to be manually pumped to keep a patient breathing, and said that the state bought 3,000 and ordered another 4,000. He said that members of the National Guard could be trained to use them, but this was not a solution because it requires a lot of people.

Currently, his office’s estimate is that the state will need 140,000 beds and 30,000 ventilators at the apex. Cuomo pointed out that hospitals will need to think “holistically” and shift their patients to another hospital is theirs get overwhelmed.

New Saturday Statistics: 29,158 Cases, 517 Deaths In NYC

Updated details for NYC coronavirus cases were announced at 10 a.m.: There are 29,158 cases and 517 deaths. The borough breakdown is 9,228 in Queens; 7,789 in Brooklyn; 5,352 in the Bronx; 5,036 in Manhattan; and 1,718 in Staten Island.

De Blasio Calls For Rent Freeze For Rent-Stabilized Tenants

While it’s unclear whether Governor Andrew Cuomo and other Albany lawmakers will act on proposed rent relief, Mayor de Blasio did say he supported a rent freeze for nearly one million rent-stabilized apartments.

“I think if ever there was a time, there should be a rent freeze, it is now,” he said on Friday. “What we’ve seen here, to me, makes clear that we need a rent freeze for everyone who’s rent stabilized and we have to talk about all the people who are not rent stabilized as well. But for everyone, who is rent stabilized, since we have a mechanism, we need to have a rent freeze. But the only way to do that is with the help of the State of New York. And I would like to see the state immediately join with us and they’ve been very cooperative on so many fronts. We’ve worked on so many issues together and come to a common agreement on the way forward.”

He suggested that the Rent Guidelines Board decision making be suspended for the 2020 calendar year. “If we are able to get State agreement to suspend the rent guidelines process for this year that will effectively create an immediate rent freeze for new leases, that’s something I think we have to do given the sheer severity of this crisis,” he said.

There are 2.3 million tenants in NYC’s rent-stabilized apartments.

NYC Has 26,697 Coronavirus Cases, As Of Friday Afternoon

A bar graph showing coronavirus cases in downstate NY and NYC on March 26, 2020

The city released new statistics about COVID-19 cases on Friday evening, and the NYC count is now at 26,697, about 1,300 more cases above the count provided in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mid-day press conference.

Another 84 people died from the novel coronavirus, with total deaths at 450 as of Friday at 4 p.m. The hospitalization rate is currently 19%, with 5,039 cases.

“It’s Friday – what feels like has been an endless week. I know so many New Yorkers have really felt this week. It’s been very, very difficult,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his Friday press briefing. “We’ve lost a lot of people. It’s been a tough slog already.”

Line graph showing the rise in covid 19 cases by NYC borough

The most confirmed coronavirus cases in the city are in Queens, with 8,529; Brooklyn has 7,091; the Bronx, 4,880; Manhattan, 4,627; and Staten Island, 1,534. Doctors and nurses at Elmhurst Hospital and Jamaica Hospital sharing harrowing accounts of how hard hit their emergency rooms have been.

President Donald Trump, during a press conference after signing the $2 trillion stimulus plan, discussed his relationship with de Blasio, claiming, “I’ve really gotten to like him. I get along with him very well.” He also made comments about the situation at Elmhurst: “I know Elmhurst hospital very well, that was an area of Queens that I grew up in, and, boy, you talk about an epicenter. That’s really the epicenter of the epicenter.”

And yet, Elmhurst still does not have the life-saving supplies needed, and de Blasio is still asking for ventilators — he believes April 5th will be a “decisive moment” for hospitals and treatment.

Rachel Maddow also pled with the president on Twitter, asking that he “Nationalize the supply chains for critical medical supplies.”

City Will Close 23 Of The “Regional Enrichment Centers”

After a week of being open, about a quarter of the regional enrichment centers opened up by the NYC Department of Education to care for essential workers’ children will be closed. According to Chalkbeat, only 9,000 children had signed up—the 93 centers have a capacity of 40,000—”As of Monday, the centers will have the capacity to serve 31,000 students across 70 locations.”

Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had opened up the centers—which had originally been meant for children of workers in healthcare, transit, NYPD, FDNY—to more parents, such as those working for grocery stores and ferry services, and other city agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection. They also indicated that they would adjust the size of the REC system as needed.

Outside of a Manhattan hospital during COVID-19 pandemic
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Outside of Lenox Hill Hospital, March 26th, 2020. Gretchen Robinette / Gothamist

Emergency Medicaid Coverage For NY State’s Undocumented Immigrants

The state will now extend emergency Medicaid coverage to undocumented immigrants who are being tested and treated for COVID-19.

“Great news tonight – new guidance from @HealthNYGov does it!” State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried tweeted Friday.

The state Department of Health issued guidance that says “NYS Medicaid coverage for undocumented immigrants is limited to emergency services only. COVID-19 lab testing, evaluation, and treatment are emergency services and will be reimbursed by NYS Medicaid for individuals with coverage code ‘07.’” 

Gottfried and state Senator Gustavo Rivera—the chairs of the health committees for the Assembly and Senate—sent a letter Thursday to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging the state to ensure emergency Medicaid coverage would cover undocumented immigrants seeking treatment for the coronavirus. The state already permits emergency medicaid coverage for undocumented immigrants undergoing emergency labor and delivery as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer patients.

Gottfried and Rivera’s letter said the “net costs for this expansion would be minimal given the much higher costs of medical care (including intensive care hospitalizations) which would already qualify for Emergency Medicaid.

The more New Yorkers are unable to access sufficient screening or non-hospital treatment, the greater stress it will put on the hospital system when they only seek care for very advanced cases,” Gottfried and Rivera wrote.

Source: gothamist.com/feed