Cuomo reports progress in COVID-19 struggle while quarreling with Schumer over Medicaid

March 28, 2020 - Albany, NY - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update during a press conference in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

While a new test for COVID-19 will come into use next week that is less invasive and safer for healthcare workers, the city will also get help from a naval hospital ship arriving Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

More than that, the hospitalization rates have reduced in New York as the numbers were doubling between March 16 through 19, and are officially doubling only every four days, according to Cuomo, who said the discharge numbers are trending up as well.

“If you look early on, the hospitalization rate was doubling every two days, then it doubled every three days, then it doubled every four days, now it’s doubling every six days; so you have almost a dichotomy,” Cuomo said. “The doubling rate is slowing and that is good news, but the number of cases are still going up.”

Wadsworth, at the state Department of Health, has developed the new saliva and short-nasal swab test for COVID-19, and while healthcare workers still need to administer the test, it requires less personal protective equipment. It should come into use as soon as next week, Cuomo said. 

“People ask, ‘When is this over?’ I think the testing, you tell me when they come up with an inexpensive home test or point-of-care test that can be brought to volume, I think that’s probably when you see a real return to normalcy for the workforce,” Cuomo said.

On Monday, a 1,000-bed capacity hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will dock in New York City and provide care to coronavirus patients with the help of federal healthcare workers. On top of the 172,000 people now tested across the state and support from the Comfort, 76,000 healthcare workers have come forward to volunteer to fight the virus, Cuomo said.

There are 59,000 cases in New York overall that have tested positive, 8,000 in hospitals, 2,000 ICU patients, and 3,500 patients have been discharged from hospitals so far; over 800 since Saturday.

“You also see a trend-line in people being discharged and this is a dramatic trend-line,” Cuomo added. “And now you’re seeing the discharge number trend upward.”

In terms of the criticism for Cuomo’s attempts, supported by both houses of the state legislature, to rework the Medicaid system’s funding in light of the budget shortfall that comes as a result of the coronavirus, the governor turned vitriol toward Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer accused Cuomo of rejecting $5 billion in coronavirus Medicaid funding for New Yorkers, claiming the governor was unwilling to wait until federal funding ran out.

“I say to Senator Schumer, it’d be nice if he passed a piece of legislation that actually helped the state of New York. The piece of legislation that he passed stopped the state from a process that was happening for six months which was redesigning the Medicaid program to be more efficient and more effective,” Cuomo said. “It takes waste and fraud and inefficiency out of the system and that was going on since January. The legislation he passed said, ‘you can’t redesign Medicaid.’ For what reason, I have no idea.”

Schumer issued a statement following the governor’s presser which addressed the issue of money available to the state in the stimulus and that there would be more funding later down the line.

“Speaker Pelosi, Governor Cuomo, and I just had a long and productive conversation,” Schumer said. “We agreed that there is significant money for New York in the bills we passed, but that much more is needed and we will continue to work together to make that happen, and to fix New York State’s FMAP issue as well.”

Schumer said the Cares Act in Washington would also provide $25 billion in direct aid to hospitals, $33 billion for small businesses, $1 billion to schools across the state.

Budget Director Robert Mujica backed Cuomo up in asserting that the $2 trillion stimulus which recently passed did not have significant funding for New York beyond some coronavirus expenses for local government, despite the state providing 10% of the nation’s GDP and having the highest number of cases.

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