NEW YORK, NY — With New York City set to commence with Phase 1 of the plan to reopen the economy on June 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said steps are being taken to target testing in areas with the highest percentages of the coronavirus — and put the brakes on inequality in healthcare.
On Day 91 of the coronavirus pandemic, a total of 67 deaths were reported, Cuomo said, a “tremendous” low number thanks to the doctors and nurses who worked to save thousands of lives, showing up to help at a time when Cuomo himself told New Yorkers to stay home, he said.
Health care workers are heroes, he said. “Our better angels rose to the occasion,” Cuomo said.
At a time when five regions across New York State have entered Phase 2 of a reopening plan for the economy, Cuomo said the goal is to open “smart,” by reviewing data, leading with numbers and not emotions or politics.
As New York City readies to reopen into Phase 1 on June 8, the focus until then is on the new “surge and flex plan” for the city’s 11 city hospitals and 100 private hospitals that was created during the coronavirus crisis.
Private hospitals operate unto themselves, Cuomo said.
During the pandemic, hospitals operated dramatically differently than in the past, he said.
“Public hospitals cannot handle any outbreak of any size. We’ve learned that. We need those private hospitals operating in a way they never operated before — which is basically managed as one public health system. And that’s a dramatic difference from anything that happened before . . .We want to make sure we have that refined over the next week. Because if we have problems we need all those hospitals to work together —where we can shift patients, where we can share resources. That kind of coordination,” he said.
With an eye toward reopening, the MTA is “disinfecting trains like never before,” he said.
And Cuomo said, there is a real focus on the city’s coronavirus hotspots, located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Those hotspots have been identified through testing and can now be traced by zip code. There is a dramatic difference between the percentages of individuals citywide testing positive for coronavirus, currently at a 19 to 20 percent infection rate, and some zip codes in the areas with an “over-50 percent infection rate,” Cuomo said. “We are targeting those zip codes as places to get that infection rate down, get down the new cases in those hotspots.”
Those areas with the highest rate of infection are in minority communities, the outer boroughs in the Bronx and Queens. “Let’s focus on those zip codes,” Cuomo said. “These hotspots are not coincidentally predominantly lower income, minority communities. This raises the issue of disparity and inequality.”
A total of 10 new testing sites are being added in each of those 10 areas to determine who has the antibodies and who is contagious, Cuomo said; the state is working with Northwell Health to develop better health care connections in those underserved communities, he said.
“We must address the inequality in health care,” he said.
Individuals with diabetes and other pre-existing co-morbidities are more likely to die of coronavirus, Cuomo said. “Why didn’t we address the health disparities better? We want to address that with Northwell Health.”
He added that the disparities in New York State are not as dramatic as in other areas across the country but still need to be examined.
The governor also said just as their are inequalities in health are, that same inequality and discrimination exists in the criminal justice system. “They are connected,” he said.
Discussing a protest at the Barclays Center Friday over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — a video of a police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and cried for his mother before he died has sparked outrage; the officer has been charged with murder — Cuomo then listed names of individuals, beginning with Rodney King 30 years ago, that reflect a “fundamental injustice” that led to the “disturbing, violent clashes amidst protestors in Brooklyn” Friday night.