An 82-year-old woman hospitalized in Brooklyn died Friday night from coronavirus complications, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
Cuomo didn’t indicate that this was the first coronavirus death in New York state, but rather it was the first death of a coronavirus patient with underlying medical issues. The woman had been battling emphysema, a serious lung disease usually associated with smoking.
“This is an 82-year-old woman who had an underlying respiratory illness, emphysema, for which she had been hospitalized previously,” the governor said during a media conference call. “She then contracted the coronavirus on top of the emphysema, and she passed.”
Cuomo did not specify the hospital where the 82-year-old woman had been located in New York City, but noted that she was admitted there on March 3.
Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that the victim had been under treatment at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn.
“The patient, an elderly woman with advanced emphysema, was admitted to the hospital last week as one of our first cases, and had been in critical condition ever since,” de Blasio said. “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. I want to thank the staff of Wyckoff Medical Center for their efforts to save this woman’s life, and all the medical professionals on the front lines protecting our most vulnerable.”
City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot acknowledged the death in a statement released after Cuomo’s conference call.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the first fatality in New York City from coronavirus. This is a painful moment and one we furiously worked to avoid,” Barbot said. “We urge all New Yorkers to continue to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their fellow New Yorkers safe and healthy. We never for a moment lost sight of how serious this situation is, but this tragedy reflects how critical and dire the spread of the virus really is. Our hearts go out to the family during this difficult time.”
As the governor and other officials have repeatedly said, senior citizens with underlying health issues are at the highest risk of suffering serious or fatal complications from coronavirus. Cuomo likened this case to the common instance of seniors with health issues who wind up being gravely ill after contracting influenza.
“If you were to ask the Health Department how many people in their 80s who had an underlying respiratory illness and contracted flu who passed, my guess is that would be in the dozens,” the governor said. “It’s normally not just the flu that kills you … This virus is basically pneumonia.”
The number of coronavirus cases grew by 100 Saturday, with now 524 infected patients across the state. Cuomo said labs conducted 700 tests yesterday, and he expects the number of infected patients to climb considerably as auto-testing kicks into high gear in the week ahead.
“We believe there are thousands of people who have coronavirus, maybe tens of thousands who have it,” the governor observed. “Maybe, there were tens of thousands who had it and never realized it, and resolved from it.”
Of the 524 total coronavirus cases in New York state, 117 of these patients are hospitalized. With 50,000 hospital beds statewide — including 3,000 beds in intensive care units, where the most serious coronavirus patients will be treated — Cuomo stressed the importance of social distancing, which would help reduce the spread of infection and ease the strain on the health care system.
A day after the state opened a drive-through coronavirus testing facility in New Rochelle, the governor also announced a second drive-through facility will be set up on Long Island. Jones Beach, with its ample-sized parking lots that are empty this time of year, is being considered as a site for the testing.