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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some New Yorkers Could Receive Elective Surgeries Soon

Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

The deaths from coronavirus in New York are continuing to decline, but remain at a high level, with 478 New Yorkers losing their lives to the disease on Sunday. 16,301 people are still in the hospital. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is still not close to reopening, though he says he might ease up on the ban on elective surgeries for some parts of the state.

Cuomo says elective surgeries may be coming back to some upstate hospitals, and he’ll make a more detailed announcement Tuesday. Many hospitals in regions north of New York City have had far fewer cases of Covid-19, although some of those regions, like the Buffalo area, are not due to see their peak until early June.

Because of the ban on elective surgeries and the reduction in routine doctor’s appointments, several upstate hospitals have had to furlough hundreds of workers.

“We’re at a point where some of the upstate hospitals have significant financial burdens because they are not doing the elective surgeries,” Cuomo said. “Which is one of the places where they make money, frankly.”

But the governor says any increase in non-Covid-related procedures needs to be carefully calibrated to make sure hospitals have room if there’s a sudden surge of the virus.

Cuomo says the reopening of the economy is still weeks away, the current stay-at-home order lasts until May 15th. And he says without an effective treatment or vaccine, resuming activities like going to the beach, to concerts or holding parades would create a “magnet” for the virus to gain strength.

The governor also cast doubt on schools reopening any time soon, saying new protocols for disinfecting and social distancing would need to be set. Cuomo, who said Saturday he might consider opening parts of upstate sooner, now says there needs to be one strategy for all of New York.

“Everything is closed unless we say otherwise,” Cuomo said.  

The governor also addressed a small minority of people who have held protests about the statewide shutdown orders, and who are planning a return to the state Capitol on Wednesday.

“Nobody disagrees that we want to get out of this situation,” Cuomo said. “You don’t need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work, and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes.”

The timetable for reopening society hinges on the availability of tests, both for determining who has the disease, and who has the antibodies to show that they have recovered from the virus.

Cuomo placated President Trump, saying the president is right to say testing is the state’s responsibility. Cuomo says states need to coordinate the testing. But he says without federal control of national and international supply chains for materials, testing will remind a “quagmire.”

The governor says a program continues to randomly test 3,000 New Yorkers at supermarkets for the presence of antibodies, to get a sense of what percentage of the population may have already had coronavirus.

And Cuomo says the state is willing to take over the labor intensive process of contact tracing, which if there are enough tests, could also help to contain outbreaks of the virus.

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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