Events with 500 or More Individuals in Attendance to Be Cancelled or Postponed
Any Gathering Under 500 Individuals in Attendance Will Be Required to Cut Capacity by 50 Percent
New Limits on Visitations to Nursing Homes - Only Medically Necessary Visits Will Be Allowed To Protect Most Vulnerable
First Public Drive-Through Testing Facility on the East Coast, Located in New Rochelle, Will Start Testing Tomorrow
Confirms 109 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 325; New Cases in 14 Counties
Governor Cuomo: "We need to make sure the healthcare system has the capacity. That is the intelligent priority for any government that is planning right now."
Cuomo: "The second way you reduce the spread besides testing is to reduce the density of people... So, we're going to take very dramatic actions in that regard. To reduce the number of people in a contagious environment, no gathering with 500 people or more. From zero to 500, we're reducing the occupancy by 50%. So 50% of your seated capacity is the new capacity for a facility. Those new rules will go into effect five o'clock on Friday, except for the Broadway theaters in Manhattan, where we're going to affect five o'clock today."
Cuomo: "We're putting additional requirements on nursing homes. All staff must wear masks. All staff must be monitored for symptoms as they're coming in. No non-medical staff, personnel, to enter a nursing home. This means no visitors in a nursing home which sounds very difficult. But look, you don't need, if you care about someone in a nursing home, the last thing you want is to endanger that person"
During a novel coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state will institute limits on mass gatherings, directing events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed. Public health experts agree mass gatherings with people making sustained close contact are a place where the novel coronavirus can easily infect many people quickly and continue its spread. As such, events, gatherings, or places of business with less than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50 percent, with exceptions being made for spaces where individuals do not make sustained close contact, such as schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores. These new regulations will go into effect Friday, March 13th at 5pm, with the exception of Broadway Theaters where the limits will go into effect this evening at 5pm.
In an effort to protect some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo also announced only medically necessary visits will be allowed at nursing homes. This policy will be effective Friday at 5pm. The state is also asking nursing homes to set up skyping and other online communication capacity so families can tele-visit their loved ones. Additionally, the state will require health screenings for all nursing home workers each day when they enter a facility and require them to wear surgical masks to guard against any potential asymptomatic spread.
In order to increase testing capacity, the State is contracting with BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day on top of what the state is already doing. These additional 5,000 tests per day will come online next week. This additional testing capacity is on top of that of the 28 private labs the Governor announced are partnering with the state in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, the Governor announced the first public drive-through testing facility on the east coast will start testing people tomorrow in New Rochelle. Testing will be done by appointment only. New Rochelle residents who have been quarantined will be tested first.
Finally, the Governor confirmed 109 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 325 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 325 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
Albany County: 1 (1 new)
Broome County: 1 (1 new)
Delaware County: 1 (1 new)
Dutchess County: 1 (1 new)
Herkimer County: 1 (1 new)
Monroe County: 1 (1 new)
Nassau County: 41 (13 new)
New York City: 95 (43 new)
Orange County: 1 (1 new)
Rockland County: 7 (1 new)
Saratoga County: 3 (1 new)
Suffolk County: 20 (14 new)
Ulster County: 4 (3 new)
Westchester County: 148 (27 new)
AUDIO of today's update is available here.
PHOTOS of today's update will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Good afternoon, everybody knows I think, Patrick Murphy, who is the Commissioner of DHSES to my far right. Commissioner and Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health. Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, and Robert Mujica, Budget Director.
Thank you all for being here. Bernadette Hogan is still upset with me about St. Patrick 's Day. We did not cancel St. Patrick's Day. It was postponed. And by the way his eminence agreed with me. Columbus Day? Crowd is smaller.
Okay, let's talk about this today. We are talking about a public health emergency and we are talking about setting up a public health emergency system, right? So much of this information is episodic. We are doing this here. We are doing this here. This has to be a system that is in balance and can handle the entirety of a public health emergency. So there are two basic functions you are performing. One is reduce the spread of the disease. Two, make sure that you can treat the number of people that get infected, right? So, reduce the spread the best you can. You do that through testing. You do that through density reduction. Reduce the spread. Second half of the equation, you must be able to treat the number of people who do get infected. And you need a hospital system, a healthcare system, that can do that. So that is what we are working on.
On reducing the spread, it's testing and then it is density reduction. On testing, I am not that interested in what happened yesterday and what we should have done a few months ago. I am a governor. I am more interested in what is happening today and what is going to happen tomorrow. There will be plenty of time to do a retrospective. We need to increase testing as quickly as possible and get the volume as high as possible. The more people you test, the more people you can isolate. Testing is not about figuring out how many people have the disease. That is gone. As far as I am concerned, we are way behind in testing and determining how many people are actually infected.
The State has authorized 28 labs within the State to conduct testing. That will dramatically increase the number of tests that we can take. The State is contracting with a national lab that is supposed to be getting FDA approval to do what is called automated testing which could increase our capacity by the thousands. We could actually be up to about 5,000 per day next week if the FDA approval works and everything works. But the most relevant data from our point of view is the hospitalization rate, okay? The testing is not about what percentage of the population has coronavirus. You will never figure that out today. The testing is about what percent of those infected are hospitalized to determine the capacity we need in our hospital system.
The second way you reduce the spread besides testing is to reduce the density of people. We all talk about how it's contagious, touching surfaces, etc. So reduce the density. So, we're going to take very dramatic actions in that regard. To reduce the number of people in a contagious environment, no gathering with 500 people or more. From zero to 500, we're reducing the occupancy by 50%. So 50% of your seated capacity is the new capacity for a facility. Those new rules will go into effect five o'clock on Friday, except for the Broadway theaters in Manhattan, where we're going to affect five o'clock today. Yes, that's only several hours, but we've already been talking to the Broadway theaters and they are aware that we're going to be doing this, so they have notice. These rules don't apply to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, mass transit facilities. In addition, this is assuming that businesses are following the protocols that we put out about diligent cleaning, requirements, et cetera. Any business that can't maintain their current occupancy or these new occupancy rules with that diligent cleaning, they should contact Empire State Development, and Empire State Development will give them what's called the Close Order. Direct them to close. That's important for businesses for legal reasons. And their phone number for ESD is (212)803-3100. So that's on the reducing the spread: more aggressive testing, which we are doing, and then new density reduction guidelines.
That then has to work and be coordinated with the capacity to treat the number of infected people. When you look at what happened in Italy, where did they get into trouble? You overwhelmed the healthcare system. And that's where you can get into trouble. If the number of people infected who go to a hospital cannot be treated at the hospital, that's what you want to plan for now. So, first of all, most people who contract the virus will self-resolve or be treated at home. That's about 80% of the people. For the remainder 20%, we've talked about the vulnerable populations, et cetera, you need hospital capacity to handle that number. What is that number? Well, that's why we're watching the hospitalization rate on those we test. So, even if you don't have a testing sample that tells you what you have in the population, you have a testing sample that tells you what percent of those people being infected are requiring hospitalization. And from that you can factor a hospitalization rate, and that's what we're doing.
We're working with the hospitals across the state to develop what's called the surge capacity. How do you expand the capacity in the existing hospital system besides just filling vacant beds? And there are a number of strategies to do that. First of all, we're not doing it today, but the healthcare system should be on notice that we might cancel, at one point, elective surgeries. Elective surgeries are about 25-35% of the hospital beds, believe it or not. So, if you cancel elective surgeries, you free up a significant amount of hospital space. And, again, we're not doing that now, but it is something we're considering in our back pocket.
Department of Health is accelerating regulations to get more nurses and personnel trained and put into a different positions. There are different tranches of certification, Department of Health is working to get people into positions where they can work, for example, in an ICU unit. We're asking former doctors and nurses to reconnect with your old hospital, your old healthcare employer, to be on an on call basis. When you're talking about hospital systems you're talking about two components. You're talking about the facility capacity and then you're talking about the staffing capacity. One of the things that has happened in China, South Korea, and Italy if you study those models, healthcare workers get sick and they can't come to work. So making sure you have enough staff and reserve staff is just as important as making sure you have enough facilities. So, we're asking former doctors and nurses, contact your previous employer. Department of Health with accelerate your recertification on an emergency basis so if we need you we'll have a reserve workforce.
National Guard has a number of medics and medically trained personnel and EMTs. We are now identifying them for reserve staffing capacity, also. Medical schools we're contacting, again for the same reason, to identify possible reserve healthcare professionals who we could call from a medical school if we wind up in a staffing shortage. This is all if, if, if, if, if, but that's why it's planning. Plan for every contingency now. Hopefully you don't have to do any of it.
We're also looking at temporary hospital facilities. What facilities the state owns, what facilities the state has that if we need actual physical space, we could actually expand the healthcare system by identifying temporary hospital facilities now and coordinating the upstate and the downstate hospitals. We have more vacancy rates in upstate hospitals, so we want to plan the health system as one health system and coordinate upstate, downstate. Worst case scenario if you run out of capacity downstate you have upstate capacity.
That is the second part of the system, right? First part is assess the number of people who are infected, that's the testing, reduce it, that's the reducing the density. Second part of the equation, make sure you can treat those people who are going to need hospitalization because you have both the facilities and you have the staff to work those facilities. The system calibrates to the most recent data. So, we're watching that hospitalization rate to gauge, to plan, what could be the possible hospitalization rate for our population. We're studying the hospitalization rate in China, South Korea, Italy, et cetera, to gauge what we need to be prepared for in, what could be, a matter of weeks.
Special concern has always been nursing homes and senior assisted facilities. Why? Because they are the vulnerable population. Right? We've always said 80 percent self-resolve. Twenty percent might need medical attention. The lethality rate is among the vulnerable population: senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, people with underlying illnesses, especially respiratory illnesses. So nursing homes have always been of special concern. The tragedy in Washington State, the number of deaths, that's a nursing home. We're putting additional requirements on nursing homes. All staff must wear masks. All staff must be monitored for symptoms as they're coming in. No non-medical staff, personnel, to enter a nursing home. This means no visitors in a nursing home which sounds very difficult. But look, you don't need, if you care about someone in a nursing home, the last thing you want is to endanger that person and a visitor, grandchild going to visit his or her grandmother who walks in the virus, you're not doing anyone a service. We'll leave it up to the facilities if they are what called exigent circumstances. If a person is in a dire situation then certainly let them see their family. In that case the family should wear protective equipment, etcetera, if they're going into the facility and we'll leave that up to the discretion of the facility.
We have several districts across the state that closed. You will see this happening every day. Remember, we have a state regulation that says any school that has a child who tests positive must close for 24 hours. That school is then cleaned for 24 hours. After the 24-hour period we make an assessment as to whether or not that school should reopen, if so when. This is primarily a local decision and some school districts are making that decision given the facts and circumstances. For example in Nassau we have the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District that's closing for two weeks.
A couple of basic points: number one, science dictates these decisions. I am not a trained medical professional, although I'm getting a heck of an education on an ad-hoc basis. I may apply for some certificate or something soon. But this is about science. This is about data and let the science and let the data make the decisions. We're blessed to have Dr. Zucker who is literally one of the finest in the country guiding this effort and giving us his advice and we're following his advice and that's the way it should be.
Mayor de Blasio and I agree on these recommendations. I've spoken with other mayors. I've spoken several times with the Vice President, Mike Pence, who is the point person for the federal government. A big part of this testing is getting FDA to approve certain things and the Vice President has been very cooperative and has made an effort to facilitate New York going to these private labs, these 28 private labs, so he has been very helpful to us.
We're also working with the private sector on these closings, the 500 and the 250. We did that speaking with business leaders across the state, specifically, for example, Association for a Better New York, Partnership and chambers of commerce across the state and I want to thank them very much for their help. The most recent numbers, you see the state is up to 328 cases, 112 new cases. So you can see the numbers are increasing. Again, that is not representative of the percentage of the population that has coronavirus because we don't have the testing capacity to actually determine that. This is testing where we're tracking positive cases so we can isolate them. There are several new counties, Albany, Broome, Delaware, Dutchess, Herkimer, and Monroe now have cases today. They didn't prior to today. You can see again, New York is up at the top of the list nationwide with the State of Washington.
Again, State of Washington has 29 deaths. Up until this point we've not had any deaths. But again, that's the nursing home nightmare, if you will, what happened in Washington. And that's why we're taking special precautions here. 47 out of 328 cases hospitalized. 14 percent of the cases hospitalized. To me, that's the most important number. Again, what happens if you get the virus? 80 percent self-resolve, etcetera. We need to make sure the healthcare system has the capacity. That is the intelligent priority for any government that is planning right now. That's again the issue in Italy. The healthcare system couldn't handle the number of infected people. And then you can say yes, you will recover with the right healthcare, but you have to have the right healthcare. And that means the healthcare system has to be responsive to whatever number is generated.
Again, put this all in focus. I know the hysteria is high. I know the political environment superheats everything. But when people say how bad is this, which people say to me 10 times a day, how bad is this. Johns Hopkins has tracked every case of coronavirus since it started. Every case. 127,000, 4,000 fatalities. 68,000 of the 127,000 have recovered and 54,000 are pending. Those are the facts. Those are the numbers. Well, this one thinks this, this one opinion, yeah, opinion, opinion, opinion. These are the facts and these are the numbers. It is worse than the flu in terms of the numbers, yes. We don't want to lose anyone, that's unfortunate. But it's more being able to handle this situation governmentally, operationally. Being able to make it all work, and that's what we're planning on right now.