COVID-19 hospitalizations slowing in N.Y.; Texas preps to reopen

The USNS Comfort hospital ship remains docked at Pier 90 in New York City on Thursday. The ship is treating COVID-19 patients to help reduce the strain placed by the pandemic on local hospitals. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

April 18 (UPI) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday reported more than 600 new deaths from COVID-19 but hailed statistics showing a continuing slowing of hospitalizations at the center of the U.S. outbreak.

Health officials said 630 New Yorkers died from Thursday to Friday, bringing the statewide total to around 12,800. More than 222,000 positive cases have been reported across the state since the start of the pandemic.

However, Cuomo said, there were positive signs on hospitalizations and intubations — both of which continued to trend downward.

“That is very good news because intubations 90 percent of the time wind up in a person not recovering,” he said, noting that about 2,000 people a day are showing up at hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms.

The latest figures for the United States, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, pushed the total death toll at more than 34,000 as of midday Friday.

Nearly 680,000 U.S. coronavirus cases were reported. Recoveries numbered 56,000. Nearly 110,000 remained hospitalized in the United States, including more than 50,000 in New York.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio canceled all permits for non-essential events through May and cast doubt on whether large gatherings would be allowed in June.

Events that require permits include parades, concerts and political rallies.

De Blasio said talks were underway with organizers of big events scheduled for June, including New York’s iconic Pride Parade, which usually draws tens of thousands.

“We have to be smart,” De Blasio said. “We love those things. We’ll miss them. But they will be back.”

Three key health indicators improved in numbers reported Friday. The city saw a reduction in hospital admissions for actual or suspected COVID-19 cases, the number of intensive care unit admissions and the percentage of positive test results.

The mayor once again took aim at the Trump administration and Senate Republicans for what he called an inadequate federal response, urging them to support a $150 billion Democratic proposal for direct aid to state and local governments.

The new round of COVID-19 relief measures remained mired in disagreements between the White House and congressional Democrats.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday signed an executive order laying out his plans for gradually reopening the state. Despite the gradual relaxing of restrictions, he said schools will not return to session for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Abbott said that starting next week, doctors and hospitals will be allowed to perform some elective procedures and testing and retailers will be allowed to start reopening and selling to customers curbside or by delivery.

His order also reopens state parks starting Monday, though groupings are limited to five people or fewer and everyone must wear face coverings.

“Texans are battling a colossal challenge, an invisible enemy who has tested our lives and livelihoods,” Abbott said. “But part of our Texas brand is our ability to overcome challenges.

Texas has reported more than 17,300 cases of COVID-19 and 428 deaths as of Friday. The Texas Tribune’s figures indicate the number of new cases each day are on the decline after a peak on April 10.


Gov. Tony Evers extended coronavirus-related school and business closings in his state until the end of May in a move that brought an angry response from Republicans.

“Things won’t get back to normal until there’s a vaccine and treatment for this disease,” the Democratic governor said Thursday, cautioning that if COVID-19 is still posing a threat by fall, schools may not reopen even then.

Leaders of Wisconsin’s Republican-held Legislature said they will consider court action against Evers’ mandate.

“Legislative Republicans are planning to act with legal and legislative options to deal with the extension of the order and get answers to the questions our constituents are demanding,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Jim Steineke said in a joint statement.


Republican lawmakers in Michigan are also pushing back against the emergency powers of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A move by legislative leaders to repeal the law granting emergency powers to the governor came a day after a protest against her stay-at-home orders snarled traffic in the state capitol of Lansing.

Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan on March 10 and announced a stay-at-home order on March 23, calling on all state residents to stay inside, except for essential purposes. The order, with tougher restrictions, was later extended to May 1.

A bill introduced Thursday by GOP lawmakers would limit the number of days the governor can declare a state of emergency without legislative approval from the current 28 days to 14.

“The governor is playing with people’s constitutional rights,” said one of bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jason Sheppard. “She has stripped residents of their property rights by prohibiting travel from one residence to another.”


Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor Lenny Curry said the city’s beaches and parks will open Friday evening — but with social distancing restrictions.

The reopening could “be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry said.

Though open to “essential activities” such as swimming, hiking, and biking, other activities and items conflicting with statewide social distancing orders issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 1 will be banned, the mayor said.

Those include organized group activities, sunbathing, towels, blankets, chairs, coolers and grills.


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