Virus Outbreak New York

A patient leaves a COVID-19 testing station at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

ALBANY – More than 600 New Yorkers are now being treated in hospital intensive care units after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo said the acceleration of statewide testing availability has contributed to a new surge in the number of known infections. As of Monday morning, the state had 20,875 confirmed cases. The total was pushed up by 5,705 new cases in just one day.

The hospitalization rate in New York for those who have tested positive is at 13 percent, with 2,635 people being admitted to hospitals.

A total of 157 New Yorkers have died from the virus infection in the last two weeks. New York is the nation's epicenter for the outbreak.

Cuomo is calling on all New York hospitals to find ways to increase their state-approved capacity by 50 percent, noting his administrating will waive rules that currently limit the number of beds the facilities can have.

Patients, regardless of which part of the state they are from, will be transported to the hospitals with space to accommodate the growing number of patients, the governor told reporters.

"There is no upstate/downstate here," he said. "It is one state."

Cuomo also acknowledged he expects he could face political consequences for the measures he has advanced to counter the spread of the virus, including an executive order that temporarily prevents all "non-essential" businesses from opening their doors to the public.

"Frankly, I don't even care about that," saying his priority is to counter the spread of the virus, not his political future.

"I have no second thoughts on actions that I have taken," he said, adding: "I take total responsibility for shutting down the economy."

Cuomo called on members of the millennial generation to practice social distancing, pointing out younger people can become infected and spread it to senior citizens and those coping with medical issues that have hampered the ability of their immune systems to fight off the virus.

He also reiterated his plea for President Donald Trump to use his powers under the Defense Production Act, a statute normally invoked during time of war, to order private companies to produce ventilators, masks, hospital gowns and other gear needed by the health care system.

The governor said the state has taken several measures to curb the potential of the virus spreading in state prisons.

CNHI reported on its websites Sunday that Wende Correctional Facility in Erie County has two inmates in isolation, one of them convicted rapist and former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, after they tested positive for COVID-19.

State officials reported 10 of the prison agency's 29,000 employees have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Those employees include corrections officers assigned to Green Haven, Shawangunk, Sing Sing, Downstate and Fishkill correctional facilities, along with parole officers from Westchester County and the Bronx, a civilian who works at Fishkill Correctional Facility and two civilian staffers in Albany.

Restrictions on transportation of prisoners, including a suspension on the intake of incarcerated individuals from county facilities to the state prisons, have been imposed.

Michael Powers, president of the union for state corrections officers, said Weinstein is believed to have contracted the virus before he was transferred last week from Rikers Island, a local jail in New York City, to the state prison system after he was sentenced to 23 years for sex crimes decried by activists in the #MeToo movement.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com.

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