NYC Loses More in 2 Weeks to COVID-19 Than to Homicides Last Year

NYC Loses More in 2 Weeks to COVID-19 Than to Homicides Last Year

As of Thursday, more than 46,000 people in the three states had tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 571 have died. NYC has more than 23,100 cases alone and accounts for 30% of all cases in America. NBC New York’s Ray Villeda reports.

What to Know

  1. The tri-state area has nearly 50,000 COVID-19 cases and 600 deaths to date, with New York City accounting for most of the increasing toll
  2. Right now, New York state has about half of all cases in America; it has nearly 6x more cases than the 2nd hardest-hit state, which is New Jersey
  3. President Trump has approved major disaster declarations for the two states, which say they are in dire need of funding and life-saving supplies like ventilators

President Trump sent a letter to America’s governors Thursday saying his administration was working to publish a new set of federal guidelines on social distancing — one that would evaluate risk at a county level — as part of his effort to relax current national restrictions. For the hardest-hit states in America — New York and New Jersey — the word “relax” is hardly the first that comes to mind to describe a pandemic that shows no signs of ebbing.

“Before it comes down, we’re going to go through a really sharp growth period,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on “Good Morning America” Friday. He said he believes “over half of the people in this city will ultimately be infected.”

That’s more than 4 million people. Though 80 percent of people diagnosed have mild symptoms, the current mortality rate would suggest nearly 80,000 deaths if de Blasio’s grim prophesy holds. Asked if NYC would be effectively shut down through May, de Blasio said bluntly, “I think we have to be ready for that.”

As of Thursday evening, nearly 39,000 cases had been confirmed in New York, an increase of more than 6,000 from the night before. At least 469 people have died. The city, impaired by the density that makes it one of the world’s most vibrant places, bears the brunt of the impact, with over 23,000 cases across the five boroughs.

The mayor’s office said Thursday night the death toll had soared to 365 — that’s almost a third of the total fatalities nationwide, according to NBC News estimates. Fifty more people have died in the city over the past three weeks as a result of COVID-19 than the city’s entire homicide total for 2019.

Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State

To think — it was only four weeks ago that no one (at least none we knew of) had COVID-19. That was four weeks ago. Now there are nearly 40,000 sick and 500 dead in New York alone — and makeshift morgues are being set up outside besieged hospitals to handle the influx of the dead. In an increasing number of cases, loved ones don’t even get a chance to say goodbye.

“Too many people are dying alone,” emergency room physician Dr. Kamini Doobay told the AP. “It’s been incredibly painful to see the suffering of family members who I call from the ICU, hearing the tears, crying with them on the phone. It’s one of the most horrific things.”

The city says 20 percent of its cases have required hospitalization to date. Even for patients who don’t need that level of care, daily life can be a challenge. As one man told News 4, he has been confined to his home, told just to take over-the-counter painkillers as he suffers from an affliction he says should be renamed “the virus from hell.”

The signs of strain are everywhere, lines of people to get tested stretching around city blocks before sunrise, including at Elmhurst Hospital, which reported 13 fatalities in a single day; doctors describing their ERs as “apocalyptic;” adult children begging to see their parents in nursing homes; healthcare workers treating patients on end, venting their desperation and fear on social media.

Some have called coronavirus “the humanitarian mission of our lifetimes.” Others have described it as “the greatest humanitarian crisis in a century.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio say they have enough supplies to get hospitals what they need right now. But they literally mean “right now” — and “right now” gets more taxing with each day. New York doesn’t have enough to last much longer, given an infection rate that Cuomo said earlier this week “continues unabated.”

Hunt for Hospital Beds — and Ventilators

New York state has a new goal — to get 1,000-plus bed overflow facilities in all five boroughs as well as in Westchester, Suffolk, Nassau and Rockland counties, Cuomo said Thursday. The state is also working to shift some patient load from overwhelmed downstate hospitals to upstate facilities, he said. De Blasio, meanwhile, is working within his administration to triple NYC bed capacity.

There are a number of FEMA-run field hospitals — including at the Javits Center — and the state is scouting more locations. One that New Jersey is developing with FEMA, at the sprawling Meadowlands complex, will be just across the river.

As the crisis deepens, Cuomo is expected to announce Friday that construction will no longer be considered essential and that ongoing projects will have to stop in the next week or so through at least late April — except for essential infrastructure like hospital facilities.

Cuomo said Thursday the facts are such that “almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the current capacity of the health care system.”

The latest battlefront is ventilators. Thousands of people with COVID-19 are sick enough that they need ventilators to help them breathe – in some cases, Cuomo said, for 20 days or more. But New York alone is more than 18,000 units short of what it expects to need at the peak of the crisis.

The head of surgery at New York Presbyterian said that the number of patients on ventilators at the hospital has “more than doubled over the past three days,” a faster pace than the overall increase in new cases. While the medical center says it has not exhausted its supply of ventilators, that becomes a real possibility if the current pace continues. In Hoboken, a chief hospital executive says her staff now check inventory twice daily and fear they may run out of key equipment, especially ventilators, by next week.

Hospitals struggling to stay afloat will get relief, as will many others, after the U.S. Senate passed a historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that promises to infuse business, state and city governments and individuals with direct cash and immediate support. The House of Representatives is expected to pass it Friday, and checks could be flowing within three weeks.

But Cuomo ripped the bill before and after the vote, saying the $5 billion allocated for New York is just a “drop in the bucket” given the state projects up to $15 billion in virus-related costs.

Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office said in terms of stimulus dollars coming to the state not directly related to coronavirus, just over $5 billion would be going toward the state relief fund for the month of March. The MTA would get $3.8 billion, while education would get just over $1 billion and child care getting $162 million.

Desperate Times

Trump wants to have the economy “raring to go” by Easter — a concept de Blasio has blasted as “literally inconceivable” for his city, the epicenter of the national outbreak. Murphy said it won’t work for New Jersey either, saying nothing would make him happier than reviving his state’s economy — and his people, but doing so too soon would be akin to throwing gasoline on an already raging fire.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN Wednesday night, “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”

Initial unemployment claims nationwide hit 3.28 million Thursday, nearly five times the previous all-time record. De Blasio predicts that as many as half a million city residents either have lost or will lose their jobs due to the outbreak.

New York City has been providing childcare for essential workers and New Jersey has ordered all daycare centers to solely care for children of those key personnel as well. If not, they must close by April 1. As for schools, no government officials in any of the tri-states can commit to a reopening date; most say it’s not even a concept they can consider at this point.

More Testing, More Cases

As of Thursday, the vast majority of coronavirus patients in the city who have died (75 percent) are older than 65. But the majority of cases (55 percent) are people younger than 50; 2 percent of cases are people no older than 17. And with young people sometimes less likely to exhibit symptoms that might beget proactive testing, the case scale could be tipped even higher their way.

Numbers will continue to rise as more people are tested, officials have said. To date, New York has accounted for 25 percent of all COVID-19 testing in America, Cuomo said Thursday. That is an accomplishment, he noted — the only way to curb the spread is to identify the positive cases, isolate and treat them.

New Jersey and Connecticut have both seen their totals rise as well, standing at 6,876 and 1,012, respectively, as of last reporting. Their death tolls have also spiked (81 in NJ, 21 in CT). Regionally, the tri-state area has 46,865 COVID-19 cases; at least 571 people have died.

Governors are working to accelerate action on the drug front as well. New York launched a clinical trial for an experimental treatment Tuesday and plans to be the nation’s first state to try to heal critically ill patients using recovered people’s plasma — a process called convalescent plasma that was used during the flu epidemic of 1918. Right now, everything is on the table.

Governors are working to accelerate action on the drug front as well. New York launched a clinical trial for an experimental treatment Tuesday and plans to be the nation’s first state to try to heal critically ill patients using recovered people’s plasma — a process called convalescent plasma that was used during the flu epidemic of 1918. Right now, everything is on the table.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The depths of the outbreak — and its impact — are incomprehensible at this point but most definitely catastrophic: Billions upon billions of dollars have been lost and more will be lost; many have died, far more have been sickened. The grim totals will rise — and it may be months before we see the curve flatten out.

The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, the first coronavirus to ever earn the dubious distinction. It’s novel — that means it’s new and no one has immunity to it.

Nationally, NBC News estimates more than 85,000 have been infected with the novel coronavirus and at least 1,268 people have died – a mortality rate of about 1.5 percent. By way of comparison, the CDC says in the 2018-2019 flu season, about 0.1 percent of those infected ultimately died.

The numbers are far more stark globally. WHO offered a somber outlook in a recent situation paper: It took three months to get to the first 100,000 cases. It took 12 days to get to the next 100,000, and just five days to get the next 100,000 after that.

On Thursday, the U.S. overtook China in countries with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.