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New York Marks Another Record Daily Death Toll For The Coronavirus, As Hospitalization Rates Flatten

Mary Altaffer
Medical personnel remove bodies from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center last week in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says it was another day of mixed news about the coronavirus. Another new daily high for deaths was reached, while the overall rate of new infections and hospitalizations is flattening.

The governor announced that 779 New Yorkers passed away from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll yet, bringing the total to 6,268.

“The bad news isn’t just bad,” Cuomo said. “The bad news is actually terrible.”

One of those who likely died of the virus is former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who passed away Wednesday morning. Brodsky, a 73-year-old Democrat from Westchester, became ill with COVID-like symptoms and took a test on Friday, according to his wife. Brodsky, who had an underlying heart condition, died suddenly without receiving the results of the test. The 14-term Assemblyman was known for his wit and his feistiness. He championed many reforms, including successfully establishing a watchdog body over the state’s secretive public authorities.  

Brodsky always defended the power of the legislative branch of government especially when there were power struggles with governors. In a 2015 interview, he gave advice to the then newly elected Speaker, Carl Heastie. 

“The legislature gets beaten up very badly, some of it deserves, some of it, it doesn’t deserve,” said Brodsky at the time, who said the job of the speaker was to “project an image of the legislature that the public understands and appreciates.”

In recent years he served as a senior fellow for the Demos think tank and wrote regular editorials for newspapers.

Senator Jim Seward, who has been hospitalized with the disease and was on a ventilator, is, according to his office, doing better. He has been off the ventilator for several days, and has now been moved out of intensive care. He is expected to be discharged soon to recover at home.

Cuomo says there is another glimmer of hope. The rate of new hospitalizations is declining. The 533 new cases Tuesday is up slightly from Monday, but part of an overall trend that shows a drop of nearly half from a high point on April 2.   

But the governor says it’s no time to be complacent. He says the decline is likely due to the closure of schools and businesses and social distancing practices over the past few weeks, and he says that needs to continue.

“I’m more worried about people saying ‘oh, well the number of cases is coming down, it’s now safer,’” Cuomo said. “It’s not.”

The governor says if social distancing rules were eased up the hospitalization and death numbers would go up “literally within days.”

The governor says the state will use its own funds advance the money for the federal program to add $600 per week for those who are unemployed. He says he doesn’t want to wait until the federal money comes through.

“People need money now, in their pocket,” Cuomo said.

The governor said state unemployment benefits will be extended another 13 weeks, to a total of 39 weeks.

Those who lost their jobs will still have to reach the state unemployment offices first, and that’s been difficult because the present system has been overwhelmed with the record number of people who have lost their jobs. Cuomo’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, says they are working with Google, and switching phone lines from Verizon to a call center to try to break the log jam.  

“There is progress,” DeRosa said on April 7.

DeRosa says they hope to have the new system fully implemented by Thursday.

Cuomo also took a step toward mail-in voting for the June 23 state and federal primaries. He says he’ll sign an executive order that will allow anyone who believes voting in person might be a health risk to automatically be sent an absentee ballot.

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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