Officials: Nurse who treated COVID-19 patients has died

Newsday is opening this story to all readers so Long Islanders have access to important information about the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.

This story was reported by Scott Eidler, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo blasted a $2 trillion federal coronavirus rescue package for failing to help New York sufficiently as he announced a jump of more than 6,000 cases in the state, for a total of more than 37,000.

“I was shocked that they were so irresponsible in addressing the state and the city need,” he said Thursday. “They just did not address the revenue shortfall.”

Cuomo said that as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise, so are related hospitalizations and deaths — leaving the state in a precarious position as it copes with a growing health crisis and shrinking revenues.

Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she does not expect schools to reopen April 1 as initially scheduled, though the decision is up to Cuomo.

Cuomo estimated the state expects a loss in revenue of between $10 billion and $15 billion. “That is a ton of money for the state of New York’s budget,” he said.

The rescue package gives New York State $5 billion, but it is earmarked for coronavirus expenses only, “which means it does absolutely nothing for us in terms of lost revenue,” he said.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I find it irresponsible. I find it reckless.”

He warned of “a double whammy” about to hit the state’s finances as crisis expenditures have risen and revenues drop dramatically under the shutdown of most businesses in the state.

“This was the time to put politics aside,” he complained, adding that he plans to later give the state’s congressional representatives “a piece of my mind.”

He noted that the rescue package does include items to help with unemployment insurance and small businesses, which he said was positive.

In Nassau County, asked whether schools will reopen April 1, Curran said she does not believe they will because the governor has said “we will reach the apex of this crisis in two to three weeks and April 1 is only one week away.”

She said she can’t make any orders herself “because the state has taken action on closing schools, and they are the bigger entity, their order now supersedes ours on reopening … We are awaiting guidance from the state.”

‘People are dying …’

While New York City remains the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in the state, with more than 21,000 cases to date, Long Island has 6,649 cases with both counties combined.

A growing concern, Cuomo said, was the rising number of deaths of vulnerable patients. He said 385 people have died of coronavirus-related illness across the state. He said they were largely people who did not come off the ventilators, used for patients in respiratory distress, after many days of treatment.

“This is the really bad news. The number of deaths is increasing … People are dying and that is the worst news you can have,” Cuomo said.

According to the state figures, Nassau County has 3,914 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 629 new positives since Wednesday, while Suffolk County has 2,735 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 475 new positives in the same period.

In Nassau County, Curran reported two new deaths on Thursday morning: women ages 59 and 66. She also said 39 members of the Nassau County Police Department have tested positive for the virus and that 90 department members are in quarantine to avoid spread.

She said the county has purchased 100 new ventilators to supply for treatment on an emergency basis.

“Right now, our hospitals are reporting that they have enough to handle what they have today,” she said. “More is likely to come.” 

Suffolk County had reported on Wednesday three more deaths for a total of 20, the seventh successive day in which the county announced it had lost people to the virus.

Nurse was a ‘hero’

Earlier in the day, Mount Sinai Health System in Manhattan confirmed that a nurse who had been treating COVID-19 patients has died.

Mount Sinai did not disclose the nurse’s name.

In a statement published overnight, the health system wrote “we are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff. The safety of our staff and patients has never been of greater importance and we are taking every precaution possible to protect everyone.”

Mount Sinai added that the virus has devastated hundreds of families in New York. “Today, we lost another hero — a compassionate colleague, friend and selfless caregiver.”

Mount Sinai did not say in its statement if the nurse had coronavirus.

‘Facts are empowering…’

Cuomo disclosed that he speaks frequently with President’s Donald Trump’s scientific point-person on the coronavirus crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a nationally known figure during the president’s daily press briefings at the White House.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has been “so kind and helpful to me,” Cuomo said.

“I speak to health care professionals all across the globe literally, but Dr. Fauci I think is just brilliant at this and he has been so personally kind. I call late at night, I call him in the middle of the night, I call him in the morning, and he’s been really a friend to me.”

Cuomo also called for a fact-based approach to the crisis.

“Facts are empowering in a situation like this,” he said. “Not knowing the facts is worse because that’s when you feel out of control or when you feel that you are getting selective facts or you are being deceived by the information that you are getting. That is actually the worst situation.”

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