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State's COVID-19 single-day death toll reaches new high, but new hospitalizations trending down

Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers questions from the media during a briefing on Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers questions from the media during a briefing on Tuesday.

New York reported the highest number of daily deaths to date from the coronavirus, but despite that grim number, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees a glimmer of hope. 

Cuomo said Tuesday that 731 New Yorkers died in the past day from the virus, bringing the death total to 5,489. There are now 138,836 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. 

He said there's hope, though, that the spread of the disease is slowing.

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The number of new hospitalizations was up slightly Monday from Sunday, but the trend is toward a decline. There were 656 new hospitalizations Monday, down significantly from a high of 1,427 on April 2. The number of daily intubations -- which is the procedure that places people on ventilators -- is also down, from a high of 351 new patients last Thursday to 69 on Monday.  

“If you look at the three-day average, it's moving down,” said Cuomo. “Which is good news.”  

Cuomo said the shutdown of schools and businesses, which will continue until at least April 29, has likely slowed the spread. He said the rate of transmission of the disease is now dependent on everyone sticking to the social distancing rules. 

“Our behavior affects the number of cases,” Cuomo said.  

The governor said the naval hospital ship the USNS Comfort will be able to take up to 500 COVID-19 patients. The ship’s normal capacity is 1,000 sick people, but more space is needed to safely treat patients who are ill from the virus. 

Cuomo said every hospital currently has enough ventilators and personal protective equipment to take care of all of its patients, though he said they will need more for future days and weeks.

He denied that he is backing away from his April 3 remarks when he said he would send the National Guard to requisition excess ventilators from upstate hospitals to help downstate medical centers. Cuomo now said ventilators have come in from China, and the states of California, Oregon and Washington, so there's less of a pressing need.

Cuomo said he and his team are exploring plans for how to reopen society and the economy. 

He said in order to do that safely, there has to be more testing, both for people with symptoms of the virus and for people who may have recovered from COVID-19 and are, for the time being, immune. He said the state’s Health Department will be working with the FDA to come up with the right test, and to bring it “to scale” to adequately test people in a state of 19 million.  

“We go back with people who have tested that they are negative or people who have tested that they have the antibodies,” Cuomo said. “Or we go back with younger people going first, still protecting, isolating the vulnerable.”  

New York is asking private companies to assist with ramping up testing and is requesting proposals that the state could invest in. Cuomo said those interested should contact the state’s Empire State Development Corp. at or at 212-803-3100. 

Cuomo said he’s working on a coordinated restart plan with the neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut. But he said it’s going to cost money, and he's asking Congress to help in the next federal stimulus package.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.