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  • Melinda Murphy

NY state: lowest death toll in two months

New York state on Saturday reported its lowest one-day COVID-19 death toll in nearly two months — a significant sign that it is “making real progress” in its battle against the disease, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Eighty-four people died from COVID-19 in the 24 hours preceding the governor’s late morning press briefing.

That’s down from 109 the previous day — and the lowest daily toll since March 24.

“If you can get under 100, I think you can breathe a sigh of relief,” Cuomo said from the governor’s mansion in Albany. “It’s still a tragedy, but the fact that it’s down is good.”

He continued: “It doesn’t do any good for those 84 families who are feeling the pain. But for me it’s just a sign that we’re making real progress and I feel really good about that.”

Single day fatalities in New York peaked on April 7, when 799 died from COVID-19. Statewide, 23,279 people have so far died from the virus.

Of Friday’s 84 dead, 62 passed away in hospitals, while 22 others died in nursing homes, the governor said.

Cuomo again blamed federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — not himself — for New York’s policy of shunting thousands of coronavirus patients from hospitals into nursing homes.

“New York followed the president’s agency’s guidance,” a test Cuomo insisted, in response to questions about his March 25 directive that nursing homes not turn down COVID-19 patients.

At least 4,500 infected patients were sent to nursing homes across the state; close to 3,100 people have died of the virus in those facilities so far.

The number of patients currently hospitalized fell to just over 4,600; the number intubated dropped by 111 over the previous day, and new cases “walking in the door” at hospitals Friday dropped to 208, from 255 the day before.

There were 1,772 new cases reported in the state’s 50 counties, pushing the total to 359,926. At the apex of the crisis, the state reported as many as 3,100 new cases a day.

Still, despite the encouraging data, the virus, “can rear its ugly head at any moment,” which is why wearing a mask remains important, Cuomo stressed.

“The social acceptance and culture of being New York tough,” is the reason the state has turned the corner, he said.

“We’re united, we’re disciplined. This is all about discipline now.”

Cuomo said the Mid-Hudson — the area north of the Big Apple along the river and south of Albany — will re-open Tuesday as long as the number of deaths continues to decrease and their coronavirus tracing programs are fully staffed.

It will be the eighth region to reopen.

“If we can get them trained over the Memorial Day weekend, we can open on Tuesday,” the governor said.

Long Island is on track to open Wednesday, Cuomo said.

Of the five boroughs, Staten Island has been the most eager to re-open, even though the rate of infection there continues to hover around 3,000 per 100,000, among the highest in the city.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, two assembly members and two council members sent a letter to the governor claiming the borough has met the state’s reopening criteria.

A week ago, 200 Staten Island small business owners rallied to demand the lockdown end.

Citywide, the daily number of new positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths also continued their downward trend, good news that Mayor de Blasio attributed to increased testing and an adherence to social distancing rules.

The city’s 150 testing sites are generating 20,000 tests a day, he said Saturday. That number will rise to 50,000 tests a day soon, he said. Aggressive testing and contact tracing, combined with continuing social-distancing, are key to containing the virus, he said.

Nationally, the number of total positive coronavirus cases topped 1.6 million, still more than in any other country. Total deaths approached 97,000 on Saturday.

Much of California is reopening business as their numbers, too, level off — but a farming region near the Mexico border has experienced a spike in cases.

A spokesman for the largest hospital in the area — the Imperial Valley east of San Diego — said that the spike may be caused by American citizens living in nearby Mexicali, Mexico crossing the border for treatment in the US.

Worldwide, there were more than 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and deaths exceeded 340,000 Saturday.

In one positive sign, China — where the pandemic originated — reported its first day of what it says are zero coronavirus-related fatalities.

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts and Dana Kennedy

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