COVID-19 deaths climb in NY; Chris Cuomo tests positive

NEW YORK (AP) — More than 300 new deaths in New York from the coronavirus have been reported in the last 24 hours, a somber-sounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday as temporary hospital beds were made available in a city where some hospitals are already struggling.

City officials announced Tuesday that 250 more ambulances and 500 paramedics and EMTs are headed to New York to help manage record numbers of calls for assistance.

The latest coronavirus developments in New York:

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NUMBERS UP

Deaths from the coronavirus continued to climb steeply in New York, topping 1,500 by Tuesday, according to Cuomo. The number of deaths, which includes the first fatality of a person under 18 years old in New York City, jumped by more than 300 from Monday. The New York City region continues to be a hotspot for the virus, accounting for the lion’s share of the state’s 75,795 confirmed cases.

The outbreak hit close to home for the governor, who spoke of his brother and “best friend,” CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, testing positive for the disease.

“Luckily we caught it early enough. But it’s my family, it’s your family, it’s all of our families,” the governor said.

The news is certain to get worse in New York City as the outbreak is expected to peak in the next month.

The virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has spread rapidly across the globe. It causes mild symptoms in many of those infected, but it can cause severe symptoms or death for some, including older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as respiratory ailments. Relatively few deaths among children have been reported.

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MORE HOSPITAL BEDS

A temporary hospital built inside a New York City convention center began accepting patients, and a nearby Navy hospital ship was expected to take in patients soon.

Beds at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the USNS Comfort are designed to take pressure off New York City hospitals as coronavirus cases spike. The combined 2,000 beds were added to handle non-coronavirus patients.

Hospitals in the city were already showing signs of stress. Elmhurst Hospital in Queens was so busy that critically ill COVID-19 patients waited in the emergency room for beds to become available, according to an administrator. Outside other hospitals, workers in protective gear have been loading bodies of coronavirus victims into refrigerated trailers.

The emergency hospital sites at the convention center began taking patients Monday night, according to the governor’s office. The Navy said Tuesday that the ship docked off Manhattan was expected to accept patients soon.

There were more than 10,900 people in New York hospitalized for COVID-19, with at least 2,700 in intensive care. The number of new hospitalizations statewide Monday was at a high since the outbreak: 1,412.

Also, the National Tennis Center in Queens, where the U.S. Open is played, will start housing coronavirus patients next week and will eventually hold 350 coronavirus patients, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

He said patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are not in intensive care will be treated at the tennis center to relieve pressure from the overtaxed Elmhurst Hospital, where 13 people died of the virus in one 24-hour period last week.

De Blasio said medical personnel and equipment are arriving in the city to meet an expected surge in coronavirus cases next week but more health care workers, equipment and supplies are needed, and he asked anyone who might have a ventilator lying around to contribute it including oral surgeons, plastic surgeons and veterinarians.

“This is a war effort, everyone needs to contribute,” the mayor said. “You’ll get it back when this battle is over.”

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UNEMPLOYMENT WOES

Cuomo apologized to laid off New Yorkers having trouble trying to file for unemployment benefits. The state’s unemployment site is so deluged it keeps crashing, Cuomo said.

“It is not working as smoothly as I would like to see it,” Cuomo said. “It’s compounding people’s stress.”

The state labor agency received 1.2 million calls Monday; it used to average 10,000 calls a day, according to the administration.

The governor said hundreds of people are working to fix the problem.

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MORE AMBULANCES ON THE WAY

New York City is bringing in 250 out-of-town ambulances and 500 paramedics and emergency medical technicians to help its swamped EMS system respond to the coronavirus crisis.

The city’s ambulances are responding to about 6,000 calls a day — 50% more than average. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said a five-day stretch last week was the busiest in the history of the city’s EMS operation.

So far, 100 ambulances have arrived and the rest are expected by the end of the week, said Omar Bourne, a spokesman for the city’s emergency management agency. They’re supplied through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Officials say the surge in coronavirus cases has delayed responses to lower-level calls. Oren Barzilay, head of the city’s EMS workers union, said some people are waiting up to six hours for help.

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

— Cuomo and lawmakers are trying to find their way forward on a state budget despite uncertainty about the size of the financial toll the coronavirus outbreak will take.

— U.S. Rep. Max Rose will deploy to the National Guard Wednesday to help with the COVID-19 response in his native Staten Island. The Democrat is a captain in the Army National Guard and will serve as an operations officer.

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