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NY’s Governor Warns COVID-19 Could Overwhelm State's Hospitals 

A woman wears a mask as she crosses the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, March 16, 2020. The bridge's pedestrian path is normally crowded on a sunny day.

New York’s governor warned Monday that the state’s health care system could be overwhelmed in the coming weeks as cases of the coronavirus rise.

“I don’t believe that we are going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters in the state capital, Albany. The curve refers to trying to contain and limit the increase in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

He said the northeastern U.S. state of more than 19.5 million residents must prepare for a “significant inflow” into the hospital system.

“The concept is right: flatten the curve, slow the spread, so the health care system can handle it,” Cuomo said. “When they say this, I don’t think of a curve, I think of a wave, and the wave is going to break, and the wave is going to break on the hospital system.”

Cuomo said the state has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 intensive care beds and is looking at ways to convert other facilities into care centers to ease the burden on hospitals.

As of Monday morning, New York State has 950 confirmed coronavirus cases. About 17% of them require hospitalization. Roughly half, 463 cases, are in New York City.

Testing is increasing and the governor said he expects to have capacity for 7,000 tests per day by the end of this week.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks at a news conference regarding the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State in Manhattan borough of New York City, March 2, 2020
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks at a news conference regarding the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State in Manhattan borough of New York City, March 2, 2020

New restrictions imposed

The state, as well as New York City, have launched an all-out effort to contain the virus, including the addition Monday of new restrictions.

Authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving patrons on their premises and move to take away and delivery service starting Monday evening outside New York City and Tuesday morning inside the city.

Movie theaters, gyms and casinos will also temporarily close.

“We strongly advise that only services and businesses that are essential stay open after 8 pm [Monday]: grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and medical facilities,” Cuomo said. “We want people home. We want less density.”

He said the business advisory is not mandatory at this time, but it could be in the future.

The measures have also been taken in conjunction with neighboring states — Connecticut and New Jersey. The governor said this was done to discourage people from trying to avoid restrictions in one state by going to another. Not only would that risk further community transmission of the virus, but it could also lead to more drunk drivers on the road.

Cuomo also said the state’s public schools would close for a two-week period starting Wednesday. He said the details are being worked out.

On Sunday evening, New York City announced that it would suspend public school classes starting Monday to reduce the spread of the virus. More than 1 million children and young people attend the city’s public schools. Many private schools have already closed.

Some public school students will begin remote learning on March 23. For the many low-income families who rely on school not just for education but for two meals a day, the city said it would provide “grab and go” meals for students to pick up starting this week.

Starting next Monday, the city will also provide supervised centers for children of health care workers, first responders and mass transit workers so the city’s essential services can continue with little disruption.