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Cuomo Announces Expanded Virus Testing in New York

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New Yorkers anxious to learn if they have the coronavirus will soon be able to get tested at any local pharmacy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday.

Mr. Cuomo said he was signing an executive order authorizing all of the state’s roughly 5,000 pharmacies to conduct coronavirus tests as a part of an effort to reach a larger number of people.

“If your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people can go to their local drugstore,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests.”

He also said the state would expand testing criteria to include all first responders, health care workers and essential employees, allowing those individuals to be tested even if they do not have symptoms.

Getting access to a coronavirus test has been a source of anxiety for thousands of New Yorkers since the highly contagious virus upended life in New York, where more than 16,000 people have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Some larger pharmacy chains were already offering tests, Mr. Cuomo said, but his order would permit many smaller ones to administer tests, as well.

Mr. Cuomo this week met President Trump at the White House to discuss plans to ramp up its testing capacity by thousands per day. The governor has said that testing needed to increase sharply before he would consider reopening the state’s economy more widely.

Mr. Cuomo also announced new antibody testing for front-line health care workers at four city hospitals, including Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, both of which have handled a surge of coronavirus cases. Antibodies are largely seen as proof that a person had survived the virus and may have developed temporary immunity.

But with the testing announcements came some bad news. A day after reporting the smallest number of deaths since April 1, Mr. Cuomo said the state experienced a slight uptick in casualties linked to the virus.

“Call it flat with a sad decline, if you are looking for a silver lining,” Mr. Cuomo said. “This is just terrible, terrible, horrific news.”

The number of deaths inched upward, to 437. That was 15 more than the number of deaths reported on Friday, which had been the lowest tally since the beginning of the month, Mr. Cuomo said. The state reported Saturday 10,553 new infections, bringing the New York’s total to 282,143.

But he reported 1,184 new hospitalizations, down from 1,296 the previous day.

“We are back where we were 21 days ago — 21 days of hell, back to where we were,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We would like to get back to the days when only 400, 500 people were showing new infections everyday.”

Governor Philip D. Murphy said the number of people discharged from New Jersey hospitals continued to outpace the number of new hospitalizations. The number of patients on ventilators in the state also fell for four straight days, to 1,442, the lowest number since April 5, he said.

But Mr. Murphy said the number of deaths and new cases of coronavirus remained high. He said officials would begin providing details about how the state might start to reopen on Monday, but he did not provide a timeline for when that could happen.

“We need to see more progress and more slowing before we can begin implementing ourselves on the road to the new normal that awaits our state on the other side of this pandemic,” Mr. Murphy said at his daily briefing on Saturday.

He reported 3,457 new cases, an increase of 400 over the tally from Friday, which brought the state’s total number of cases to 105,523.

There were 249 new deaths reported on Saturday, for a total of 5,863. That figure is higher than the number of New Jersey residents who were killed during the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War I combined, Mr. Murphy said.

“When we say we’re in a war, we mean it,” he said. “This is literally multiple wars, in terms of casualties.”

Ms. Persichilli said she spoke with Germany’s health minister, who said officials had sent out teams of five officials for every 20,000 residents to find those who have come in contact with someone who had the coronavirus.

“He emphasized the importance of robust testing to help identify new cases,” she said. “Their experience can inform our efforts as we look ahead to ease some of our social distancing restrictions in the state and increase our testing capacity.

A walk in the park brings tense flare-ups: Back off, you’re too close. Oh really? Then stay home. A loud neighbor, once a fleeting annoyance of urban life, is cause for complaint to the city. Wake at noon, still tired. New York City’s can-do resilience has given way to resignation and random tears.

Evidence of that mood shift could be seen in little spikes on the EKG of data compiled by the city.

Complaints to 311 rose in telling categories. A near-doubling of reports of loud televisions in the past five weeks compared with the same period last year, from 400 to 794, suggests an I’ve-had-enough drawing of lines. There were 16,901 calls in a brand-new category, lax social distancing.

Elsewhere, traffic to news sites flattened after the surge that accompanied the virus’s arrival, according to data from the website Chartbeat, a strong indicator of news fatigue.

The most recent weekly survey of 1,000 New York State residents, about half of them from the city, by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy asked how socially connected people have felt. Just over two in five said “not at all.” That was about double the number that answered that way four weeks earlier.

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Forty percent of the latest poll’s respondents said they had felt anxious more than half of the time in the past two weeks; 32 percent said they had felt depressed.

“This is the week where I feel like I have accepted this, and given up,” Euna Chi of Brooklyn wrote in an email. “My daily commute to the couch feels ‘normal.’”

The Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala — a worldwide relay of live streamed performances that, in contrast to opera’s usual grandeur, is being filmed using only household devices — is underway at metopera.org and will remain available until Sunday evening Eastern time.

It has an only-in-opera level of aspiration and difficulty: a roster of more than 40 of the company’s starriest singers, plus members of the orchestra and chorus, performing live across nine time zones. Among them are Lisette Oropesa, in Baton Rouge, La.; Anna Netrebko, in Vienna; and Piotr Beczala, in what he described to Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, as a village at the end of the earth in Poland.

The Met halted performances on March 12 in response to the coronavirus pandemic — and eventually canceled the remainder of its season.

Mr. Gelb — who is hosting from New York along with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s music director, who is in Montreal — said that the idea came about because “I am determined to keep the Met in the consciousness of the broader public, and I am determined to use any possible means to do that.”

Since the opera house went dark, it has posted a free stream from its vast Met Opera On Demand library every night. (Mr. Gelb said that in the past five weeks, the number of paid subscribers to that on-demand service has doubled, to 30,000.) Each stream is accompanied by a “Donate Now” button; the At-Home Gala has one, too, though Mr. Gelb was quick to emphasize that this is not “a PBS telethon.”

At least 30 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded in the state’s system of 23 psychiatric centers, and roughly a third of them at a single location: Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, N.Y.

Psychiatric hospitals present special challenges to the strictures of social distancing, since many patients are allowed to come and go in and out of the center, and once inside they are not cloistered.

At Rockland, employees said they had sounded the alarm that such activities should end, but even by late March, little had changed.

Now, at Rockland and another hard-hit center, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Suffolk County, where nine people have died and a fifth of patients are suspected to have coronavirus or have tested positive, all such activities are suspended, but the flare-ups of the disease in these illustrate the challenges such settings present in the wake of an outbreak.

“The staff is getting sick constantly. We are severely depleted in staff,” one Rockland clinician said.

And workers say they still feel vulnerable. “No one ever talks about what we do,” said Arnold Jones, who has worked at Pilgrim for 33 years. “They treat us the same way they treat the mentally ill. They want to forget us.”

On a recent afternoon, John Blumer, 65, hopped off a tractor-trailer he uses to dig graves at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island and contemplated the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, his team of four was burying fewer than 10 decedents a day. That number has easily tripled in recent weeks, Mr. Blumer said.

“We are dealing with something nobody has seen since 1917,” Mr. Blumer said, referring to the Spanish flu pandemic. “This is something nobody has seen in their lifetimes.”

The public health crisis that pushed area hospitals’ capacity to their limit is now causing similar strains at cemeteries. Funeral sector workers said the high volume of people dying of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was stretching their capacity and robbing families of dignified funeral rituals and burials.

“Every day they come to work, and every day there is a tsunami of deaths,” said Dan Wright, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 813, which represents about 500 funeral sector workers in the metropolitan area. “People are dying faster than we can get them to their final destinations.”

Mr. Blumer, who has been a gravedigger since he was a teenager, said it pained him to witness family members donning masks and gloves, forced to observe what many deemed a sacred ritual from afar.

“I don’t know how I would have felt if I had to bury my mother under these conditions,” he said. “The body goes down to the ground alone. It’s hard for them.”

He often offers a silent prayer for the deceased, he said, before the last pound of dirt covers the coffin.

“You try to do the best for people and under these circumstances,” he said. “Times are different. It is really not the same.”

Reporting was contributed by Joshua Barone, Maria Cramer, Melina Delkic, Danny Hakim, Jesse McKinley, and Edgar Sandoval.



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