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New York COVID-19 deaths drop below 550 for first time since April 1

Coronavirus outbreak: New York Governor says state might have passed COVID-19 peak
Coronavirus outbreak: New York Governor says state might have passed COVID-19 peak

New York’s daily toll of coronavirus deaths hit its lowest point in more than two weeks, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Saturday that the state isn’t ready to ease up on shutdowns of schools, businesses and gatherings. As the closings take a growing toll on residents’ lives and livelihoods, New York City ramped up a massive food-delivery program.

Here are the latest coronavirus developments in New York:

Declining death toll

The daily increase in coronavirus deaths in New York state has dropped under 550 for the first time in over two weeks as hospitalizations continue to decline, Cuomo said Saturday.

But the crisis is far from over: Hospitals are still reporting nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 patients per day, and nursing homes remain a “feeding frenzy for this virus,” he said.

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READ MORE: As parts of the U.S. eye reopening economy, COVID-19 still fills New York hospitals

While the crush of patients has eased somewhat in emergency rooms, “that doesn’t mean happy days are here again,” the Democrat said. “We are not at a point when we are going to be reopening anything immediately.”

The state logged 540 deaths Friday from COVID-19, the lowest number since April 1.

Coronavirus around the world: April 18, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: April 18, 2020

Nearly 13,000 New Yorkers in all have died since the state’s first coronavirus case was reported March 1, the governor said. The state total doesn’t include more than 4,000 New York City deaths that were blamed on the virus on death certificates but weren’t confirmed by a lab test.

More than 2,700 people in New York nursing homes have lost their lives, more by far than in any other state.

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Cuomo noted that the facilities are under pressure from staff shortages and illness and residents’ fragility.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Meal deliveries

Three days after announcing a $170 million plan to ensure New York City residents have enough food amid job losses and stay-at-home orders, officials said the program is stepping up.

The city delivered nearly 6 million free meals to needy people between March 16 and Friday night, up from 4.5 million meals as of Wednesday’s announcement, according to newly appointed food czar Kathryn Garcia. She’s also the city’s sanitation commissioner.

Coronavirus outbreak: 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in New York, 540 deaths
Coronavirus outbreak: 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in New York, 540 deaths

“We will not let any New Yorker go hungry,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, vowed Saturday as he, Garcia and other officials visited a Bronx armoury now serving as a food distribution centre.

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Taxi and livery drivers — whose work has largely stalled as New Yorkers stay home — have been engaged to deliver the meals to senior citizens and disabled people.

Coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19 infection rate in New York down to 0.9
Coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19 infection rate in New York down to 0.9

The city also is handing out 250,000 free meals a day at schools to anyone who needs them.

Even before the crisis, 1.2 million city residents struggled at times to feed themselves. Now, an estimated half-million residents are out of work or are likely to lose their jobs soon.

Donated masks

With a statewide face-covering requirement now in effect anyplace where people can’t stay 6 feet away from others, the federal government has donated 1.5 million cloth masks for the state to distribute to the public, Cuomo said.