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New York, 'Still In Search Of The Apex,' Sees Another Spike In Coronavirus Cases

People waiting outside a supermarket comply with citywide social distancing restrictions in New York City earlier this month.
Bebeto Matthews
People waiting outside a supermarket comply with citywide social distancing restrictions in New York City earlier this month.

Updated at 4:24 p.m. ET

New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus' spread in the U.S., has reported yet another sizable leap in confirmed cases. With more than 9,200 new cases, the state's grand total is more than 75,000 as of midday Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning that the rise in the number of New York's confirmed cases is only going to get steeper as testing increases and more time passes.

"We're all in search of the apex and the other side of the mountain," he told a news conference Tuesday.

"That's where the main battle is going to be, the apex of the curve," he added, referring to graphs projecting the number of COVID-19 cases over time. The top of the curve, in other words, reflects the moment at which the volume of cases reaches its peak. "And then we come down the other side of the mountain. We are planning now for the battle at the top of the mountain."

New York has reported nearly five times as many confirmed cases of the coronavirus as any other state — a gap that may grow larger as the state ramps up testing. Of the more than 18,000 tests undertaken there since Monday, Cuomo said that roughly half returned a coronavirus diagnosis.

Even as New York grapples with the biggest outbreak in the U.S., Cuomo said the state is struggling to get the respirators it needs — partly because of federal intervention, which he said has been hindering rather than supporting the state's efforts.

"Look at the bizarre situation we wind up in: Every state does its own purchasing, so New York is purchasing, California's purchasing, Illinois is purchasing — we're all trying to buy literally the same exact item," he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is involved in bidding — and Cuomo said that is driving up the price, as well.

He compared the competition among the states and the federal government for medical equipment to an eBay auction, with everyone trying to outbid one another.

"What sense does this make? The federal government should have been the purchasing agent — buy everything and then allocate it by need to the states," he said. "Why would you create a situation where the 50 states are competing with each other and then the federal government, FEMA, comes in and competes with the rest of it?"

The struggle to obtain equipment has been felt acutely in New York City — which,as of Tuesday morning, had reported more than 40,000 of the state's confirmed cases and where the death toll has topped 930.

"The indicators I'm looking at are flashing red," Eric Wei of NYC Health + Hospitals said at a news conference Tuesday with Mayor Bill de Blasio. "The number of patients that are boarding in emergency departments, the number of patients that are filling our medical surgical units and our ICUs are surging well beyond our traditional ICUs."

So, city authorities are setting up a makeshift hospital to field the surge of patients at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which usually hosts the annual U.S. Open, in Queens. Instead, in the coming weeks, it will add some 350 hospital beds to the city's medical system.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, has already arrived in New York Harbor to help alleviate the overwhelming pressure by treating noncoronavirus patients.

At the news conference in Queens, de Blasio called the pandemic an "extraordinary crisis, something we'd never experience in our lifetimes."

"But I have faith in New Yorkers, faith in New York City," he said. "We will see this through."

During his own news conference, Cuomo also took a moment to comment on the status of his younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who announced earlier in the day that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. The governor said the situation offered a lesson: Because they practiced social distancing, they may well have protected their more vulnerable mother from catching the virus, too.

"You want to go out and act stupid for yourself? That's one thing. But your stupid actions don't just affect you. You come home, you can infect someone else — and you can cause a serious illness or even death for them by your actions," Cuomo said. "People have to really get this and internalize it, because it can happen to anyone."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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