New York state is willing to work with the owners of major sports teams to enable them to begin their seasons as soon as possible even though fans won’t be able to attend events because of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told a news conference this morning at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.
“The games could be televised. New York state will help those major sports franchises do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen we’re a ready, willing and able partner,” Cuomo said. “Personal disclosure – I want to watch the Buffalo Bills but I’m still objective and acting as governor. No personal agenda here.”
He did not specify what help the state would be offering and whether it might go beyond offering assistance in navigating whatever regulations would need to be met in order for sporting events to be held.
Cuomo announced that the western region of the state has been cleared to begin the first phase of the four-phase reopening process. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose hometown is Buffalo, attended the news conference. Only the Mid-Hudson, Long Island and New York City regions have not yet met all seven metrics required for reopening to proceed.
The Mid-Hudson region as of Saturday had not met three metrics: having 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents; a 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths on a three-day rolling average; and new hospitalizations under two per 100,000 residents on a three-day rolling average.
Cuomo announced that two outside experts have been brought onboard to help the state during the reopening process. They are Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Samir Bhatt of the Imperial College London. Bhatt appeared with Cuomo via a video feed.
“Dr. Bhatt is the senior lecturer in geostatistics,” Cuomo said, adding that he had never heard of geostatistics before. Cuomo said that the Imperial College’s projections of what would likely happen in the outbreak were the most accurate model.
“We have a huge COVID-19 response team collaborating with scientists and government agencies globally,” Bhatt said. “You in New York have successfully contained the virus for now but New York is not out of the woods yet. No state, no country is. As you reopen, New York must continue to watch the data and follow the science.”
Bhatt said that New York is leading the way when it comes to data collection.
“As countries around the world and states around the U.S. start reopening their economies we will see cases rise once again so New York must continue to be vigilant and to follow the data,” Bhatt said.
Cuomo said that judges will be returning to their courtrooms in 30 upstate counties starting this week, along with courthouse staff.
He followed up on the order issued last week requiring nursing homes in the state to test their staff twice a week for the presence of the virus. He said that the state is connecting the nursing homes with six testing labs that have reserved a total of at least 35,000 tests a day just for the nursing home employees. The labs are BioReference, Quest Diagnostics, ENCO Laboratories, LabCorp, Northwell Health and BostonHeart Diagnostics.
When a question was asked about the state’s progress in processing unemployment insurance claims, Cuomo deferred to Melissa DeRosa, his secretary. She reported that as of this morning the state had disbursed $9.2 billion in unemployment payments to about 2 million New Yorkers.
“That’s not to say that everybody has been paid,” DeRosa said. “There are three main categories that are outstanding for anyone beyond the three-week backlog.”
She said the categories are people who haven’t certified that they actually were unemployed during a given week, applications that have information missing such as a social security number, or suspected fraud.
Cuomo said there were 106 deaths reported yesterday in the state, 23 in nursing homes and 83 in hospitals. Statewide there have been a total of 22,729 COVID-19 deaths according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Department of Health.
Deaths in Westchester total 1,419. Rockland saw 479 of its residents fall victim to the virus. There were no new deaths in Putnam yesterday, with the total remaining at 59. There have been 350 deaths recorded in Orange County and 129 in Dutchess.
New York has had 351,371 people test positive for the virus. There were 32,323 cases identified in Westchester, 12,777 in Rockland, 1,141 in Putnam, 9,965 in Orange and 3,552 in Dutchess.