Home Government COVID-19: Drug trial producing positive anecdotal evidence; Cuomo decries social distancing violators

COVID-19: Drug trial producing positive anecdotal evidence; Cuomo decries social distancing violators

Fast Facts:
  • The governor said that today he would be increasing the maximum fine for violating the social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000
  • The governor said the state’s virus cases are plateauing because social distancing is working
  • Schools and nonessential businesses will remain closed until April 29
  • The state Health Department is accepting donations for the First Responders Fund, which will be used for expenses associated with coronavirus first responders
  • The investment firm Blackstone has made a $10 million donation to the fund
  • Number of deaths in the state rose from 4,159 to 4,758
  • Westchester had 571 new cases bringing its total to 14,294
  • 130,689 state residents have tested positive
  • 16,837 are hospitalized
  • 4,504 are ICU patients
  • 13,366 patients have been discharged so far


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said today at an Albany news conference that the trial use of a combination of the drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to determine whether they are of value in treating COVID-19 has not yet yielded enough data for any scientific conclusions, but there is anecdotal evidence of positive results.

Cuomo said he will ask the federal government to provide additional doses of the pharmaceuticals so that the testing can continue. The state has been testing the drugs on 1,100 COVID-19 patients.

Cuomo said there have been some patients with preexisting conditions where the drugs do not work and some patients who are taking medications that are not consistent with use of the drugs.

“Anecdotally it’s been positive. We’ll have a full test once they have a large enough sample and data set,” Cuomo said.

He said he would mention the request for additional drugs to President Trump when he calls him this afternoon to ask whether the government would be willing to change its mind and allow COVID-19 patients to be treated on the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

Trump has been a proponent of using the drug combination even though there has never been an actual clinical trial of it on patients and it is not FDA-approved for treating the virus. Physicians can prescribe it for COVID-19 patients as an off-label use.

In France, a study of hydroxychloroquine on a group of 80 COVID-19 patients was inconclusive although the amount of virus, or viral loading, detected in some patients was reduced.

A smaller study in China showed positive results for a minority of the 30 patients in the sample. Side effects such as heart arrhythmias and macular degeneration have been attributed to hydroxychloroquine.

Cuomo’s Secretary, Melissa DeRosa, told the news conference that the state Labor Department has brought in Google to help reconfigure the website people must use to apply for unemployment insurance. The system has crashed numerous times due to the extraordinarily large number of people attempting to file new claims.

She said that 50 servers are now in use to host the site. She also said that the department has brought in another 300 people to answer the phones in addition to the 700 already taking calls from unemployment insurance applicants. There have been numerous complaints of people having to dial hundreds of times before being able to get through to the Labor Department as well as the website disconnecting after people have partially filled out the pages of information required to file a claim.

While emphasizing the importance of social distancing, Cuomo did not go beyond saying that the rules against congregating and requirements for nonessential businesses to be closed remain in effect until April 29. He indicated that while the latest numbers continue to grow, the rate of intensification of the epidemic seems to be slowing, an indication that the social distancing effort has been working.

Cuomo reported there have been 4,758 deaths in New York state from the virus, up from 4,159 reported yesterday. New York had a total of 130,689 cases identified. Nationally, there are 344,544 cases with 10,252 deaths.

Westchester had 14,294 cases while Rockland stood at 5,703. In Orange, there were 3,397 cases identified. Dutchess had 1,189 cases. New York City had 72,181 cases. The total for the entire state was 130,689.

Cuomo reported there were 16,837 people hospitalized with 4,504 in intensive care units. He said the number of patients discharged from hospitals came to 13,366.

Cuomo was asked about reports that Hasidic communities in Brooklyn and Monsey in Rockland County have continued to hold large funerals and weddings involving crowds of several hundred people despite the rules on social distancing. He said local authorities have the power and responsibility to enforce the rules and they should be doing so. Cuomo raised the penalty for violating social distancing rules from a $500 fine to a $1,000 fine.

“Now is not the time to go to a funeral with 200 people,” Cuomo said. “I understand grieving and I understand how the religious services can help with the grieving process and I understand how it’s hard not to do that. But as a society the risk is too great.”

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