The number of Ulster County cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, once called “novel” but now officially labeled by scientists as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” was at 23 Saturday morning, March 21, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said.
At his Saturday morning press briefing at the state Capitol, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has located 6,000 more ventilators – the crucial piece of medical equipment needed to keep people with the most severe cases alive. He also said the state will try an experimental drug combination, hydroxychloroquine and zithromax, to fight COVID-19 and that 1 million N-95 masks are on their way to New York City hospitals and 500,000 of them are headed to Long Island hospitals. (The governor said upstate hospitals are sufficiently supplied with masks for the time being.)
The governor also identified four downstate locations for potential emergency hospitals: The Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, the Westchester County Center and SUNYs Stony Brook and Westbury.
Cuomo said now that the state has more tests, more tests are being administered. Both Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro have said they expect mobile testing sites – two in each county – to be up and running early this week.
“We are taking more tests than anywhere else,” Cuomo said. “We are taking more tests per capita than China or South Korea. We’re also taking more tests than any other state in the United States of America. … The more tests you take, the more positives you find.”
All told as of the governor’s 11 a.m. briefing, there are over 10, 300 positive cases in New York.
The governor, who’s been holding daily briefings on the COVID-19 crisis for about a week running now, noted that things are getting better in the original epicenter of New York’s outbreak. “Our hotspot of Westchester [County] is now slowing, and that’s good news.”
The hospitalization rate of those testing positive for the virus is currently 15 percent – 1,603 out of 10,356, Cuomo said. He added that the first person in New York to test positive, a 37-year-old healthcare worker in New York City who had visited Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries, has recovered and tested negative for the virus.
He also warned people to maintain social distancing and said he would travel himself to New York City today to investigate reports of people still congregating in groups. “That has to be stopped because you are endangering people,” Cuomo said.
But, he said, there’s no reason for hoarding and fears of people being locked in their homes Wuhan, China-style are not founded.
“There’s no reason to buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper. There really isn’t? And where would you put a hundred rolls of toilet paper, anyway?” said the governor. “When you wake up in the morning there’s not going to be a roadblock saying you can’t leave this place, you can’t leave that place.”
The governor also threw cold water on those theorizing the virus crisis, which has led to the shutting down of much of society, will be over sooner rather than later. “The fact is we’re trying to slow the spread of the virus to a number of months so the health care system can deal with it,” Cuomo said. “So by definition it’s going to be a number of months … I don’t believe it’s going to be a matter of weeks.”
Cuomo made an appeal to New Yorkers to be grateful for health care workers and other essential workers who are keeping things going during a very risky time. “This is public service in stereo and on steroids … they’re just as nervous as you are, but they’re stepping up and doing their job.”
And he ended his remarks with another appeal, which can be summed up by a line from the “Bill and Ted” movie – “Be excellent to each other.”
“My last point is practice humanity. We don’t talk about practicing humanity, but now if ever there is a time to practice humanity the time is now. The time is now to show some kindness, to show some compassion to people, show some gentility – even as a New Yorker.
“Yes, we can be tough. Yes, this is a dense environment. It can be a difficult environment. It can also be the most supportive, courageous community that you have ever seen.
“And this is a time for a little gentility. It is a time for a smile when you are walking past someone. It is a time for a nod. It is a time to say hello. It is a time for patience and don’t let the little things get you annoyed. That’s New York at its best. That was New York after 9/11.
“Yes, we have a problem. Yes, we will deal with it. Yes, we will overcome it. But let’s find our better selves in doing it, and let New York lead the way in finding their better selves and demonstrating their better selves. That is the New York destiny and that is the New York legacy. And that is why I am proud to be a New Yorker and to be Governor of this great state.”