Jon Campbell, New York State Team
ALBANY – An 82-year-old New York City woman died after being infected with the novel coronavirus, marking the state's first death related to the virus at the center of a global pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
The woman, who died in a Brooklyn hospital, had also been battling advanced emphysema, a respiratory condition that can cause shortness of breath.
The effects of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, can be significantly exacerbated by an underlying respiratory illness.
The woman first was admitted to the hospital March 3, said Cuomo, who has repeatedly stressed that people who are of advanced age or have underlying respiratory conditions take caution as the virus continues to spread.
"Is it accurate to say she passed away and she had the coronavirus? Yes," Cuomo told reporters Saturday. "It’s also accurate to say she had the coronavirus and was 82 years old and had long been suffering with emphysema.”
Coronavirus on the rise in New York
New York's first coronavirus-related death came as the state's number of confirmed cases continued its sharp rise, increasing to 524 on Saturday. That marked an increase of 103 cases from the day before.
Of the confirmed cases, 117 have resulted in hospitalization, according to Cuomo.
That number is expected to jump as the state dramatically increases its testing capacity, with a goal of testing 6,000 people a day as soon as next week.
Cuomo said the state is trying to slow the rate of infection in New York. On Thursday, he announced a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more and cut occupancy by half at many other businesses, including restaurants and bars.
Of particular concern is the availability of New York hospital beds. Of the sate's 3,000 intensive care unit beds, about 80% are already occupied, he said.
"That's what this is all about," Cuomo said. "How can you reduce the rate of spread to a level that your hospital system can manage?"
On Saturday, NewYork-Presbyterian — one of the top hospital systems in the country — announced it was postponing all elective procedures and surgeries beginning Monday. The move was out of an "abundance of caution," according to the hospital system.
"We believe that taking this step now is in the best interest of all, and will help us to further concentrate on the adequacy of our equipment and supplies during this challenging period," according to a statement issued by the system.
More details about coronavirus fight in New York
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the deceased woman was one of the city's first confirmed cases of the coronavirus last week.
He thanked the staff of the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, where the woman was apparently treated.
Like Cuomo, de Blasio stressed that the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions are particularly suspect to COVID-19's effects.
"We’ve known from the outset that these people are the most at risk in this pandemic, and today’s news is a sad confirmation of that reality," de Blasio said in a statement.
There have been at least 48 deaths in the U.S. related to the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, which has been tracking coronavirus data around the globe.
At least 37 of those have been in Washington state, where the virus spread through a Seattle-area nursing home facility.
Meanwhile, a self-quarantine directive for congregants of the Young Israel synagogue in New Rochelle will expire Saturday.
Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said they will not extend the voluntary quarantine directive, which had applied to people who attended services or events at the popular synagogue the weekend of Feb. 22.
The synagogue is at the center of a major coronavirus cluster in New Rochelle after the virus was passed to a number of congregants at the crowded events that weekend.
Those who are subject to mandatory quarantine orders — including those infected by the virus — will still be required to stay in their homes for as long as their individual order remains in place.
The state and Northwell Health, a Long Island-based health care company, set up a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in New Rochelle on Friday, opening it by appointment only to Westchester residents.
Cuomo said Saturday the testing site accepted 150 cars on Friday and would expand its capacity because the testing was taking less than 15 minutes, the amount of time the state originally anticipated it would take.
The Democratic governor also said the state will expand the drive-thru testing model to Long Island, where dozens of new cases have been confirmed in recent days.
Also, Cuomo said the state would require insurers to waive co-pays for most telemedicine visits, which are essentially video conferences with health care professionals.
By waiving co-pays, Cuomo said the state is hoping to discourage people with illnesses from potentially exposing others by visiting crowded doctors' offices or other health care facilities.