New York’s Cuomo briefs updates on Covid-19

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his a press briefing about the coronavirus crisis on April 17, 2020 in Albany, New York.

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New York state continues to see a decline in the number of hospitalizations from the coronavirus and daily deaths from infections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

But Cuomo also noted the need to significantly expand testing for Covid-19 in the state¬†as part of a reopening of New York’s economy to avoid igniting a new wave of infections, and called on the federal government to help the state’s labs acquire chemical reagents needed to perform those tests.

“Nobody wants to reopen more than me. Nobody wants to get the economy going more than me,” Cuomo said. “Nobody wants to get on with life more than me, and everybody else.”

“We’re not at a point where we’ll be reopening anything immediately, but we are planning,'” the governor said at a press conference in Albany.

He also called on the federal government to provide “$500 billion for the states,” including New York, so we can do this reopening” nationally.

Cuomo said that at least 540 people died Friday in New York from the coronavirus, 90 fewer deaths than the previous day. The total number of fatalities statewide to date stands at 13,362.

Friday was the lowest daily tally of officially reported Covid-19 fatalities in more than a week.

Pointing to the number of current hospitalizations, which had dropped in recent days to below 17,000, and the number of patients requiring ventilators to assist with their breathing, the governor said, “If you look at the past three days you could argue that we are past the plateau and are starting to descend, which would be very good news.”

But Cuomo noted that the number of new cases of coronavirus being reported each day in the state continues to hover around 2,000.

That is “still an overwhelming number every day,” he said.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with more than 236,700 confirmed cases as of Saturday afternoon. That tally accounts for 33% of all Covid-19 cases in the United States, or upwards of 716,900.

“We’re not at the plateau anymore, but we’re still not in a good position,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that reopening state businesses and other public spaces will require a much higher number of coronavirus tests than are now being performed, in order to make sure that the virus is not spreading at an excessively high rate.

In one month, he said, New York had performed 500,000 Covid-19 tests.

The lack of sufficient supplies of reagents has been cited by labs in the state as the main reason they are not performing the number of tests that they are now otherwise capable of doing with their existing testing machines.

He said that the top labs in New York have told state officials that the shortage of reagents stems from two factors: reagents tend to come from overseas sources, and the federal government has been telling test makers how to distribute their reagent supplies.

“We called the top 50 producing labs in the state and said what does it take to double your output,” Cuomo said.

“Most of them are talking about ‘we can’t get the reagents, we can’t get these other chemicals to test.’ “

“They all say that with the machines we bought we could be doing more if they gave us the reagents,” the governor said. “That’s the log jam we are in.”

Cuomo said New York labs needed the help of the federal government with the supply chain from overseas sources of reagents and with coordinating the allocation of reagents to labs where the testing needs are great.

Cuomo said he felt the same desire as many other people to reopen the state’s businesses and social life quickly.

But “the tension on reopening is how fast can you reopen and what you can reopen without raising that infection rate,” the governor said.

He said that currently the infection rate in New York is .9, meaning that one infected person transmits the virus, on average, to about one other person.

“We brought it down from 1.4 to .9,” Cuomo said. “When that is happening, the virus [spread] is basically stable.”

But he added that the state has “a very very tight window that you have to calibrate,” to avoid the transmission rate going above 1.0, which is the tipping point.

Cuomo said that increasing the amount of testing, while at the same time tracing the contacts of infected people with an “army” of tracers, will be needed to keep the infection rate from increasing as the state reopens.

Read CNBC’s coronavirus coverage here

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