Cuomo orders schools to remain closed as N.Y. caseload soars past 44,000

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks with the New York National Guard on site at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on Friday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

March 28 (UPI) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered all schools in the state to remain closed an additional two weeks as officials struggled to deal with a coronavirus pandemic caseload of more than 44,000.

Cuomo, speaking from a temporary hospital at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, said the schools will not reopen on April 1 as originally scheduled, but rather on April 15.

“When you look at where we are and you look at the number of [COVID-19] cases increasing, it only makes sense to keep the schools closed for another two weeks and then we’ll reassess at that point,” the governor said.

New York recorded more than 7,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to more than 44,000, while the number of deaths rose from 385 to 519.

Across the country, there was a total of nearly 93,000 cases and at least 1,380 deaths as of mid-day Friday, according to a Johns Hopkins University running tabulation.

“That is going to continue to go up, and that is the worst news I could possibly tell the people of New York,” Cuomo said. “The rate of the increase is slowing, but the number of cases is still going up.”

He also urged President Donald Trump to sign off on an effort to build four additional temporary hospitals, providing one in each of New York City’s five boroughs when the expected apex of the wave of infections is reached within the next three weeks.

In Washington, D.C., a member of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s staff has died of coronavirus.

Bowser identified the victim as George Valentine, a member of the mayor’s office of legal counsel.

“It’s devastating for everybody of course and we are very sorry,” the mayor said. “These are folks who are coming to work because they are performing essential tasks.”

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Meanwhile, Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa., were the latest members of Congress to test positive for COVID-19.

Cunningham had been in quarantine at his home in the Charleston area since March 17 after he came into contact with another member of Congress who had COVID-19, The Post and Courier reported.

“While I otherwise feel fine, since March 17 I have been unable to smell or taste, which I learned this week is a potential symptom of COVID-19,” he said.

On advice from his doctor, Cunningham said he plans to stay in quarantine until at least Wednesday — longer if his symptoms continue.

Kelly, meanwhile, said he started experiencing flu-like symptoms earlier this week. He said he consulted his primary care physician, who ordered him to take a test at a drive-through site at Butler Memorial Hospital.

“My symptoms remain mild, and I will serve the 16th district from home until I fully recover. Additionally, my staff is tele-working and still available to constituents who need assistance,” Kelly said.

Reps. Mario Rafael Diaz-Balart, D-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have also tested positive for the virus.

In California, the number of confirmed cases topped 4,000 Friday, as state health officials said 1,026 new cases had been added in the previous 24 hours. It was the second consecutive day in which the number rose by at least 1,000.

The state had 83 recorded deaths related to COVID-19 as of Friday morning.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state is experiencing “the fastest rate of increase for confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world” and urged everyone in the state to “take part in the efforts to slow the spread of this disease.”

He warned that unless the spread is slowed, the New Orleans area could run out of ventilators by April 2.

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