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WATCH: Cuomo says NYC hospitals have stood up to virus onslaught so far

NEW YORK (AP) — New York state reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a third consecutive day, though trends on hospitalizations were more hopeful. State health officials now say they support people covering their faces in public, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city needs more coronavirus testing capacity.

Developments in New York in the coronavirus outbreak:

Death toll

New York state reported a record number of deaths for a third consecutive day with 799, raising the outbreak total above 7,000.

Despite the worsening death toll, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, New York City’s hospitals have so far stood up under the enormous strain. In fact, the increase in hospitalizations is down from the unsustainable pace of last week, as are intensive care admissions. More than 18,000 patients were hospitalized in the state.

“Today we can say that we have lost many of our brothers and sisters, but we haven’t lost anyone because they couldn’t get the right and best health care that they could,” Cuomo said.

The rising daily deaths in the past few days reflect people hospitalized earlier in the outbreak. Overall, the state is finally showing progress in slowing transmission, the governor said at a state Capitol news briefing.

“We’re flattening the curve so far,” he said.

Cuomo has been navigating the cross-currents of hopeful and horrible news in recent days. Deaths are spiking, yet new hospitalizations are slowing. Light is at the end of the tunnel, but New Yorkers absolutely must not end their weeks of isolation just yet, he said.

“It is good news. ‘Well, now I can relax,’ No, you can’t relax,” he cautioned. “The flattening of the curve last night happened because of what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before that.”

Face covering advised

New York state health officials now say they support people wearing cloth face coverings when they go out in public, especially in areas of “significant community transmission.”

Cuomo’s administration had previously said it wasn’t clear on whether face masks are effective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already recommends cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, as do New York City officials.

The state’s guidance released Wednesday cites recent studies about the significant number of asymptomatic individuals with COVID-19 who are spreading the virus by even just speaking near others.

‘If we work really hard’

De Blasio said Thursday that New York City needs continued social distancing plus more conoravirus testing capacity to reach a point where the loosening of restrictions could be considered.

“If we really work hard we have a chance of seeing change in May or June,” de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing.

Most New Yorkers are adhering to health guidelines banning public gatherings but anyone who sees someone flouting the rules should report it through the city’s 311 call system, de Blasio said.

“Don’t be angry, just pick on the phone,” he said. “Act on it.”

Starting Monday, the city will release ongoing data on three key virus indicators: the number of people admitted to hospitals and suspected of having COVID-19, the number of hospitalizations for the disease and the number of intensive care unit admissions for the disease, de Blasio said.

All three numbers would have to go down in unison for 10 days to two weeks before the city could consider loosening social distancing restrictions, he said.

But in order to contemplate returning to anything approaching normalcy, he said, the city would also need to be able to test more people for the virus.

“We need some greater capacity,” he said. “I think the federal government is still the most important part of this equation when it comes to testing.”

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