Coronavirus Watch

News and Updates: Death toll hits new high; Cathedral of St. John the Divine to become field hospital; Unemployment fix; Columbia offering housing to frontline workers; City morgue reaching capacity; New ventilators; FDNY applauds NYU Langone medical staff; Virtual park visits; Expanding DOE meals to all

11 Mar 2020 | 09:42

Updated Tuesday, April 7, 3:50 p.m.

Quote of the Day: “To the extent that we see a flattening or a possible plateau, that’s because of what we are doing and we have to keep doing it.” - Governor Andrew Cuomo

The Numbers

Confirmed cases as of Monday, April 6, 2020:

NYC - 76,876

NY State - 138,863

Death Toll Hits New High

In just 24 hours time, 731 people died from the coronavirus in New York, the governor announced Tuesday morning. It was the largest number of deaths in a single day since the outbreak began in New York. The state’s total now stands at 5,489.

“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother,” Cuomo said during his briefing. “So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.

In New York City, 3,202 people have died as of Tuesday, surpassing the city’s death toll on 9/11.

Despite the number of deaths, the rate at which patients are hospitalized each day is slowing from an increase of 20 percent a day to 4 percent on Tuesday, which may suggest that the spread of the virus has also slowed.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine Being Made into Field Hospital

The city is transforming the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine into a field hospital to expand the health care capacity of the city’s hospitals. The Upper West Side church, with its 600-foot-long nave and crypt, will house nine climate-controlled medical tents that are capable of holding at least 200 patients. These tents will be constructed by the end of the week and the church hospital will start to take patients by then or at the start of next week. The crypt will be used as a “staging area” for health care workers. It’s not yet clear whether the church hospital will directly serve coronavirus patients.

Unemployment Fix

Google is partnering with the state’s Department of Labor to improve the website for New Yorkers filing unemployment, which has been a frustrating experience in recent weeks due to the influx of users. With the help of Google, the state has expanded it network from four to 50 servers, which will increase the amount of traffic the website can handle — ridding the site of its long queue times and error messages. The DOL has also increased its staff by 300, which is in addition to the 700 people it hired earlier in the crisis.

On Twitter, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the DOL was asking people to file based on their last names: A-F filing on Monday, G-N on Tuesday, and O-Z on Wednesday. Anyone who misses that window can file on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. The speaker also said New Yorkers will receive benefits to cover from the date they became unemployed, regardless of the signup delays.

Nearing the Apex

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported that 599 New York State residents had died since the day before. It was relatively good news as the death toll seemed to be flattening. During the previous 24 hours, 594 people died from the virus. With that, Cuomo said the data shows that the virus in New York was nearing its apex, but the state is still in crisis.

“If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a very high level and there is tremendous stress on the health care system,” he said.

The rate of hospitalization is also increasing at a slower rate, as is the rate at which those who are hospitalized need support from ventilators.

In New York City, 219 people died between Sunday and Monday morning, bring the city’s toll to 2,475.

Another dramatic change from previous weeks it that New York is currently adequately stocked with ventilators, according to the governor, who had been pleading with the federal government to send more machines.

Columbia Offers Housing to Frontline Workers

Three Columbia University residence halls will be opened up for doctors and health care workers staffing the city’s hospitals during the pandemic so that they can avoid long commutes and minimize the risk of infecting others.

A total of 170 apartments at Watt Hall, on 113th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, and Woodbridge Hall, on 115th Street and Riverside Drive, will be made available to New York-Presbyterian Hospital staff. An additional 212 units in Bard Hall at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus are also open. Columbia Public Safety will control around-the-clock access to the buildings.

“We are honored to support our healthcare professionals in any way we can as they lead us through this extraordinary time,” said Scott Wright, Vice President of Campus Services at Columbia University.

City Morgue Reaching Capacity

In a series of tweets, Council Member Mark Levine explained that the city may need to use a city park for temporary internment as the city’s ability to manage the dead is being pushed to the limit. This would involve digging trenches for 10 caskets in a line in order to relieve the “city morgue,” or Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), its hospitals and funeral homes.

“It will be done in a dignified, orderly — and temporary —manner,” said Levine. “But it will be tough for NYers (sic) to take.”

The council member stressed that this was only a contingency plan that the city is preparing for, but if the death rate drops enough, it will not be necessary.

Ventilators from China and Oregon

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that there would be new shipments of ventilators - 1,000 arriving in New York that the Chinese government helped facilitate, and an additional 140 from Oregon. "We are so grateful to @OregonGovBrown and the people of Oregon," Cuomo tweeted. "On behalf of the people of NY, I think you and rest assured that NY will repay the favor when Oregon needs it." He also predicted that the city's coronavirus crisis would peak in about a week.

FDNY Salutes NYU Langone Medical Staff

On Friday evening, city firefighters turned out in force in front of NYU Langone to show appreciation for the medical staff's efforts in battling COVID-19. In an emotional moment at 7 p.m. - when city residents cheer medical workers from their apartments every night - FDNY sirens blared, firefighters applauded and a voice over a loudspeaker said, "We love you."

Virtual Parks Visits

With continuing concerns about social distancing in parks, the city sent out a notification encouraging New YOrkers to "Enjoy NYC's parks from home!" The parks@home site video tours, fitness classes, "meditation moments," Tuesday broadcasts with urban park rangers and activities for kids.

Expanding DOE Meals to All

The Department of Education is now offering grab-and-go meals to all children and adults across the five boroughs. The meal hubs provide three meals a day, Monday through Friday, to any who needs them. No registration or identification is required.

Meal hubs will operate from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. for children and families and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for adults. Since March 16, the Department of Education’s free meals programs have served approximately 1.2 million meals to families and students at over 440 meal hubs sites across the city.

Meal Hub locations can be found at http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals or text NYC FOOD to 877-877.

Lyft Serving Communities in Need

In partnership with several New York-based nonprofit organizations, Lyft is offering free transportation to seniors, essential workers, patients with important medical appointments and other communities in need during the pandemic. Additionally, Lyft is providing rides to a number of nonprofit volunteers who are working to get groceries and meals to those who need them.

“It’s great to see Lyft helping to fill the crucial transportation gaps for the many community organizations who need them filled. This is corporate responsibility in action,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

Commissary Kitchen

A famed fine dining restaurant on Madison Avenue is transforming into a commissary kitchen for New Yorkers and health care workers impacted by the pandemic. In partnership with American Express and Rethink Food — a nonprofit organization that uses food excess from restaurants and corporate kitchens in the city — Eleven Madison Park will produce over 2,000 meals per day to feed New Yorkers.

Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, has joined this effort, and will oversee his kitchens at Eleven Madison Park. Former Eleven Madison Park staff members, initially laid off when restaurants were forced to close last month, have been rehired by Rethink Food to produce the meals.

Former Police Head Takes on COVID-19 Role

Former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill started work Thursday helping the city wage its war on the coronavirus pandemic as a new senior advisor to the mayor. O’Neill will be tasked with overseeing the supply and distribution of personal protective and medical equipment within the city’s hospitals. He will also create, operate and manage a team of supply inspectors within the hospitals “to ensure the rapid turnaround of new supplies,” according to de Blasio. O'Neill will also make sure that every hospital is providing its essential equipment to front line health care workers. The former commissioner will be taking on this role as a volunteer.

Playgrounds to Close

For weeks the governor has voiced his displeasure at the number of people continuing to gather at city parks and playgrounds. He announced Wednesday that city playgrounds would close because New Yorkers were not properly social distancing in these public spaces. He said the NYPD needs to be more aggressive in enforcing the rules and that he was prepared to legally require social distancing.

“How reckless and irresponsible and selfish for people not to do it on their own,” Cuomo said. “I mean what else do you have to know? What else do you have to hear? Who else has to die for you to understand you have a responsibility in this?”

Where to check for the latest updates on this fast-moving story:

NYC Health:

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization (WHO):

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019