New York remains the epicenter of the United States' coronavirus outbreak, according to the latest data from the state
ALBANY — New York remains the epicenter of the United States' novel coronavirus outbreak, accounting for more than half of the country's confirmed cases and one third of its virus-connected deaths as of Monday afternoon.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the state's latest coronavirus data during a briefing at the state Capitol, where he warned stronger measures to limit density of people could soon be coming to New York City and its suburbs to try to slow the virus' rapid spread downstate.
The data showed New York continues to be the country's foremost coronavirus hotspot as Cuomo and health officials predicted the current rise in hospitalizations may quickly outpace the state's hospital capacity.
“We cannot handle the wave at the high point," Cuomo said. "The wave has to come down, and that is density control."
As of Monday, Cuomo said New York state had:
– 20,875 positive COVID-19 cases, an increase of 5,707 from Sunday
– 2,635 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, of which 621 are in the intensive care unit
– 157 deaths
Those numbers are a disproportionately large share of the total cases in the U.S., according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the coronavirus globally.
As of Monday at 1 p.m., New York accounted for about 58% of the country's 35,530 confirmed cases and 33% of its coronavirus-related deaths.
High number of cases, high number of tests
The state's high share of confirmed cases is due in part to its dense population and New York's aggressive testing protocols.
New York has tested about 78,000 people for the novel coronavirus, including 16,000 since Sunday morning, according to Cuomo. That's a far greater number than other large states.
California, for example, had tested 26,200 people as of Saturday afternoon, according to the California Department of Public Health. The state had 1,468 confirmed cases and 27 deaths at that point.
The number of confirmed cases does not account for thousands of people who are carrying the virus without knowing it, including those who are asymptomatic and those who have been unable to get a test.
Dense NYC population complicates matters
Times Square, midtown, Grand Central Terminal, and the subway system resembled ghost towns on Saturday as people heeded warnings and stayed indoors.
New York's coronavirus spread has been complicated by the incredibly dense population of New York City, home to more than 8 million people in just 300 square miles.
Of the state's 20,875 confirmed cases, 12,305 are in New York City. Another 7,775 are on Long Island and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Orange, just north of the city.
The state has been testing far more aggressively in the New York City area, with more than 75% of the state's total tests administered in the city and its suburbs.
Last week, Cuomo announced a plan -- NYS on PAUSE -- to force all nonessential businesses to close their in-person operations while encouraging state residents to stay at home as much as possible. His plan took effect Sunday evening.
Cuomo expressed frustration with people who packed parks and public spaces in New York City over the weekend without maintaining six feet of distance from each other, calling on the city to come up with a plan to open streets to pedestrians and limit density in public parks.
That plan had not been finalized as of Monday afternoon. But Cuomo warned that he intends to take the city's measures and apply them in some form in the city's suburbs of Westchester and Long Island, where coronavirus cases remain high.
"In New York City, all that density – a lot of people are touching a lot of spots," Cuomo said.
"The park bench, grocery counter. Just picture the city and daily life. And that’s why in denser areas, you have a higher rate of spread than in less urban and more rural communities."
Rush to expand hospital capacity
New York, meanwhile, continues to try to expand its hospital capacity to account for a huge spike in coronavirus cases.
The state has about 53,000 hospital beds statewide and 3,000 intensive care unit beds with ventilators.
Cuomo is anticipating the state will need to at least double its total capacity while acquiring thousands of ventilators to account for the coming onslaught of coronavirus cases.
The governor said he will issue an executive order Monday requiring hospitals to put plans in place to increase their capacity by at least 50%, though he asked them to set a goal of doubling their available beds.
Cuomo traveled to the Javits Center in Manhattan on Monday afternoon. The massive convention center is being converted into temporary hospital space by the National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is also converting space at the Westchester County Center in White Plains and two sites on Long Island.
The Javits site will hold four temporary hospitals, each of which will have 250 beds and are about 40,000 square feet, Cuomo said. Construction will begin this week and take a week to 10 days, he said.
About 320 federal staffers will be dispatched to the site.
President Donald Trump said Sunday the USNS Comfort, a floating Naval hospital with 1,000 beds, will be in New York City in three to four weeks. Like the temporary hospitals, the ship will be used to free up space in permanent hospitals for coronavirus patients.
"“I’m trying to reduce the rate of the spread of the virus, but at the same time we have to get that hospital capacity up and we have to get the equipment that we have up," Cuomo said.