Poorer NYC neighborhoods hit hardest by virus

AP News
April 02, 2020 - 6:10 pm
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As coronavirus cases soared, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers on Thursday to wear a homemade face covering when they go outside to prevent the spread of the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the state’s supply of breathing machines could be exhausted in six days. And the COVID-19 death toll climbed to 2,373. While New York City remained a hotspot, there were troublesome trends in other regions as the outbreak spread to every county. Unemployment filings skyrocketed too, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy.

The latest developments in New York:

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FACE COVERING

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside and will be near other people.

He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus without realizing it. De Blasio told a press briefing that until now, “there just wasn’t evidence” to support the move.

“When you put on that face covering, you’re protecting everyone else,” he said.

The mayor said it could be a scarf or a bandanna or anything homemade, but it should not be a surgical mask needed by frontline medical workers.

A recent study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered its flu-like symptoms.

In response to that study and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risk of infection for Americans. The agency’s new guidance targeted people who have no symptoms but were exposed to others with known or suspected infections. It essentially says that anyone may be a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not.

The mayor of Los Angeles also told everyone in the city to start wearing masks on Wednesday.

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VENTILATORS RUNNING LOW

Cuomo warned New York could be six days away from exhausting its supply of ventilators as the statewide death count took its largest daily jump yet, from 1,941 to 2,373.

The breathing machines have become the crucial piece of equipment sought by state and city officials as hundreds of patients a day are admitted to intensive care units.

The state just released 400 ventilators to New York City and another 200 in the suburbs. But the governor saw problems ahead unless there's a slowdown in demand.

“At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile,” the governor said at a briefing at the Capitol.

If supplies run short, the state is ready to use anesthesia and converted BiPAP machines, usually used to treat sleep apnea, or put more than one patient on a single ventilator. Officials are also prepared to shift machines from upstate to the New York City area, where needs are urgent.

More than 92,000 state residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. The true number is likely much higher because officials have rationed tests and encouraged all but the most seriously ill people not to seek treatment and instead ride it out at home.

Deaths and hospitalizations in New York continue to increase at an alarming pace as the outbreak moves closer to its projected peak this month. There were 432 deaths reported in the past 24 hours.

There were over 13,300 people hospitalized statewide Thursday, with about 3,400 in intensive care.

Most people who get the virus experience mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and cough. Others, though, develop pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.

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UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

More than 464,000 people have filed for unemployment in New York state in the three weeks since the pandemic shattered the economy, an increase of over 1,000% from the same period last year, according to the state Department of Labor.

Last week alone, more than 369,000 unemployment claims were filed, an increase of more than 2,600% from the same time last year.

The Department of Labor’s unemployment filing system has seen a 16,000% increase in phone calls and a nearly 900% increase in web traffic in recent weeks.

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OUTBREAK SPREADS

Cases have now been confirmed in every county, with worrisome trends in some regions.

Cuomo said Thursday that there’s a “troubling rise” in suburban Long Island and Westchester County.

At the other end of the state, Buffalo and surrounding Erie County reporting 19 deaths and about 730 cases as of Thursday.

Among those infected in Buffalo is Common Council President Darius Pridgen, along with three of his adult children. His daughter was taken off a ventilator late Wednesday and began breathing on her own just before Pridgen went live on Facebook to offer an update from his own quarantine, frequently coughing and his voice hoarse.

“It was pretty rough for a couple of days,” he said of his daughter.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center could be used as an intensive-care hospital if needed during the projected peak in late April or early May.

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DISPARATE IMPACT

The virus hasn't spared any part of New York City, but new data shows that a few poorer neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn are getting hit harder than wealthy parts of Manhattan.

Residents of one Queens ZIP code south of LaGuardia Airport were roughly four times as likely to have tested positive as people in the gentrified section of Brooklyn that Mayor Bill de Blasio calls home.

City health officials say it could be that families living in close quarters because of poverty may have a hard time practicing social distancing.

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PRISON MASKS

Administrators of the state prison system said they will allow corrections officers and staff members to wear masks on duty. Staff had been prohibited from wearing masks unless medically necessary.

Also, inmates subject to quarantine will be issued a surgical-type mask to further reduce the risk of any secondary transmission, officials said.

The state corrections department said Thursday that 176 employees and 24 inmates have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

That includes Harvey Weinstein, the film producer who is serving 23 years for rape and sexual

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CUOMO & CUOMO

Cuomo’s press briefing included a live video appearance by his younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who has tested positive for coronavirus.

“A lot of people have been fighting this alone, and I can’t imagine it,” said Chris Cuomo, who is quarantining himself in the basement of his Long Island home.

On Thursday, Chris Cuomo looked bleary-eyed beneath his ball cap and said he’s been feverish.

The governor lauded his brother for doing his show from his basement and demystifying the disease.

“You are answering questions for millions of Americans,” Cuomo said.

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MASK DISTRIBUTION

The Justice Department says it is distributing about 192,000 N-95 masks to frontline medical workers in New York and New Jersey that were found during an investigation by the new coronavirus hoarding and price gouging task force.

Officials say the masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment were found by the FBI on March 30. The Justice Department says it notified the Department of Health and Human Services, which compelled the supplies to be turned over as part of the Defense Production Act.

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Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.

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