The Coronavirus Outbreak

 nytimes.com  03/25/2020 16:37:01 

White House officials have been focused on New York as it has emerged as the epicenter of the national outbreak.

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The rate at which people are being hospitalized with the coronavirus is slowing, suggesting that density-control measures are working, Governor Cuomo said.

ImageCrossing Tenth Avenue on Tuesday.
Crossing Tenth Avenue on Tuesday.Credit...Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

Though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to grow quickly and has now topped 30,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday said that there were early signs that stringent restrictions on social gatherings and other measures could be slowing the viruss spread.

Mr. Cuomo highlighted data that showed slowing hospitalization rates. On Sunday, the states projections showed hospitalizations doubling every two days, while Tuesdays estimates showed them doubling every 4.7 days.

That is almost too good to be true, the governor said, but the theory is, given the density that were dealing with, it spreads very quickly, but if you reduce the density, you can reduce the spread very quickly.

Other highlights from the morning:

  • Mr. Cuomo said the $2 trillion stimulus deal struck in Washington would be terrible for New York. The state, he said, would only be able to use $3.8 billion from the package to bridge a far-larger virus-related budget gap. But Senator Chuck Schumers office noted that New York would receive $40 billion in unemployment insurance, hospital grants and urgently-needed funds for the M.T.A.

  • New York State has 30,811 confirmed cases, up more than 5,000 since Tuesday morning. That is more than 7 percent of the 431,000 cases worldwide tallied by The New York Times. There have been 285 deaths in the state. New York City has 17,856 confirmed cases.

  • There was encouraging news from Westchester County, where the rate of infection has slowed. We have dramatically slowed what was an exponential rate of increase, Mr. Cuomo said. That was the hottest cluster in the United States of America. We closed the schools, we closed gatherings, we brought in testing, and we have dramatically slowed the increase.

  • State officials project they will need 30,000 ventilators, of which they currently have 4,000. But the state is making headway: Mr. Cuomo said 7,000 more ventilators have been procured, in addition to 4,000 ventilators sent by the federal government.

  • The governor said about 40,000 health care professionals, including retirees, have volunteered to work when hospitals become strained. Almost half are nurses.

  • More than 3,800 people are currently hospitalized, or 12 percent of all confirmed cases. Of those, 888 people are currently in intensive care.

  • In New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced 736 new cases, bringing the total in the state to 4,402, including 62 deaths.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced additional measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the state.CreditCredit...Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Mr. Cuomos comments came the morning after federal officials, alarmed over the infection rate in New York City, urged anyone leaving the city to quarantine themselves for 14 days before mingling with the general population elsewhere.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that New Yorkers who were understandably trying to leave for places like Florida needed to make sure they were not seeding the rest of the United States.

When they go to another place, for their own safety, they have to be careful, Dr. Fauci said.

The New York Fire Departments chief of Emergency Medical Services issued new guidance on Tuesday requiring that any patient who needs to be transported to a hospital must be taken to the nearest one that processes 911 calls, without exception.

Patients were previously allowed to request which hospital they be taken to, so long as the one they chose was not more than 10 minutes further away than the closest medical center.

The guidance was issued in an internal Fire Department memo obtained by The New York Times.

The new rule underscores how severely the coronavirus outbreak is straining an emergency services corps that was already stretched thin. According to city data, the division typically receives around 4,000 calls on a steady day. On Tuesday, two sources said, more than 6,400 came in.

According to the new guidance, patients who knowingly refuse to be taken to the nearest hospital will be left and listed by medics as refused medical assistance.

As twilight approached on Sunday, Jatin Prajapati set up a folding table on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, outside a shuttered eyebrow-threading salon.

Mr. Prajapati, who works at a pharmacy in Manhattan, spent the day handing out bags containing masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to passers-by. The items were free, which often surprised the people who took them.

Another man, Manuel Cuzco, prayed outside St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, also on Roosevelt Avenue. Down the street, restaurants served their last customers for the evening and shopkeepers locked up, unsure of when they would reopen.

Roosevelt Avenue, which runs under the elevated 7 train, is usually a bustling business corridor. But the 8 p.m. deadline  the time when officials ordered nonessential businesses to close indefinitely  was fast approaching.

People carrying shopping bags scurried across the street on their way home, and the commercial strip went dark, dotted with the glow of essentials: pharmacies, markets, restaurants serving takeout and liquor stores.

People with second homes in the Catskills region of New York are being warned to stay away in venom-laced Facebook posts and blunt messages from county officials.

Boardwalks and beaches in some Jersey Shore towns are barricaded, and local residents are urging that coastal access bridges be closed to outsiders.

In the Hamptons, the famous playground for the rich on Long Islands East End, residents are angry that an onslaught of visitors has emptied out their grocery stores.

A backlash has grown on the outskirts of the New York region, as wealthy people flee to summer homes to avoid the densely packed city, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the United States.

Theyre coming up here to get away because theyre worried, said Kim Langdon, 48, of Ashland, N.Y., in Greene County. They pumping gas. Theyre stopping at grocery stores. If theyre infected and they dont know it, theyre putting everyone at risk.

Faced with a shortage of doctors, New York Universitys medical school announced that it will allow students to graduate early if they agree to join the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

Only those set to graduate this year and who have met most of their requirements are allowed to take the offer.

The students would have to begin working as interns in the universitys internal and emergency medicine departments in April, about three months earlier than they would normally begin working.

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed that students would be allowed to graduate early pending approval from the New York State Department of Education.

At hospitals in New York and the region, a sense of desperation is setting in as waves of sick patients threaten to overwhelm the health care system.

Hospitals are looking to augment their work force in any way they can. Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday that more than 40,000 people had already volunteered to provide health care.

Medical students at other New York institutions expect to be called up as well.

David Edelman, a medical student at Columbia, said that classes and rotations were canceled in early March, but students expected to be called in soon to help with routine matters.

We need some kind of stable of support for when things are going to get worse, he said.

More than 100 college students who grew up in foster care and are allowed to stay in campus dormitories year-round have been told to move out immediately, as New York State prepares to turn dorms into hospitals.

Several students said they feared that they would end up homeless or would have to return to less supportive foster homes and residential treatment centers.

The sudden move affects 117 students from a special scholarship program who live at Queens College and City College of New York in Harlem and at another residence operated by John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Marcus Diego, a student at Queens College, said the lack of planning and the disregard for the welfare of teenagers and young adults who have lived unstable lives was unacceptable.

The National Guard is here, he said. They are turning these rooms into hospital rooms already. Were packing. We are going to be homeless.

The scholarship program, the Dormitory Project, which offers year-round housing and academic and financial support, is sponsored by the City Administration for Childrens Services, CUNY and New York Foundling, one of New Yorks largest nonprofit child welfare agencies.

Bill Baccaglini, the chief executive of New York Foundling, said the nonprofit learned that the students had to be moved on Monday, though there was some concern previously that dormitories could close to follow the trend of other schools around the country.

The nonprofit and the Administration for Childrens Services have been working with foster care agencies to find places for the students to stay.

New York Citys taxi industry was already reeling from competition with Uber and Lyft and from the toll of drivers taking out reckless loans to buy medallions at artificially inflated prices.

Now, taxi owners and drivers who were barely holding on say their livelihood has evaporated with the city all but shut down.

When you have to wait six or seven hours to get one passenger, its really bad, said Mario Darius, 66, a taxi owner who was camped out at Kennedy International Airport after picking up just three fares in three days.

Though ridership numbers for March are not yet available, some in the industry say business is down by two-thirds or more.

Taxi companies can no longer find enough drivers for their fleets because there is so little business, and some cabbies are so fearful of being exposed to the virus they are staying home with no way to pay mounting bills.

As The New York Times follows the spread of the coronavirus across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, we need your help. We want to talk to doctors, nurses, lab technicians, respiratory therapists, emergency services workers, nursing home managers  anyone who can share what they are seeing in the regions hospitals and other health care centers.

Even if you havent seen anything yet, we want to connect now so we can stay in touch in the future.

A reporter or editor may contact you. Your information will not be published without your consent.

Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Michael Gold, Nicole Hong, Winnie Hu, Andy Newman, Nate Schweber, Michael Schwirtz, Ashley Southall, Nikita Stewart, Tracey Tully and Ali Watkins.

  • Updated March 24, 2020

    • It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions  not just those with respiratory diseases  particularly hard.

    • If youve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • If the family member doesnt need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If theres space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Dont forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • No. Unless youre already infected, or caring for someone who is, a face mask is not recommended. And stockpiling them will make it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need to help on the front lines.

    • Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Thats not a good idea. Even if youre retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a years worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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