New York’s virus death toll falls to lowest level in weeks

National News

Customers wear personal protective equipment as they board an MTA bus as it operates without fees, Friday, April 24, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s daily coronavirus death toll dropped slightly, state leaders braced for a $13.3 billion budget hit, and residents will be receiving applications for mail-in ballots.

Details on developments in the coronavirus outbreak in New York:

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THE NUMBERS

New York reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 deaths in weeks on Friday.

The state said there were 422 deaths Thursday. That’s the fewest since March 31, when it recorded 391 deaths. More than 16,000 people have died in the state from the outbreak.

“Again, this is at an unimaginable level, and it’s dropping somewhat. But it’s still devastating news,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The total number of people hospitalized statewide continues to drop slowly, hitting 14,258, though the number of new patients coming into hospitals is basically flat at around 1,300, Cuomo said.

Though the overall trends provide some hope, the governor continued to stress that any gains could be lost quickly if social distancing restrictions are relaxed too quickly.

“How fast is the decline, how low is the decline?” Cuomo asked. “Again, the variable is what we do.”

New York has begun to increase the amount of testing, conducting 34,736 on Thursday, compared to around 20,000 usually. Cuomo administration officials cite an executive order directing private and public labs to work with the state to prioritize coronavirus testing. The state hopes to conduct as many as 40,000 tests a day.

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BUDGET BUSTED

New York expects to see a budget-busting $13.3 billion drop in tax revenue through next March amid the pandemic, Cuomo said.

Cuomo has frozen pay for tens of thousands of state workers and warned of 20% cuts to state aid for schools, hospitals and local governments.

The Democratic governor is criticizing Congress for having yet to follow through on promises of more state aid in coronavirus spending packages. For a second day, he blasted Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for suggesting states facing shortfalls could declare bankruptcy.

Cuomo dared McConnell to pass a bill allowing states to legally declare bankruptcy, saying it would signal to financial markets and other countries that the nation is in turmoil.

“Pass the law,” Cuomo said. “I dare you.”

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DISINFECTANTS

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to President Donald Trump’s musing about the possible use of disinfectants or ultraviolet rays to treat COVID-19 by saying that it’s “sad when you have to correct the president of the United States” on basic science.

Trump noted Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the coronavirus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people. He also suggested that beaming ultraviolet light “inside the body” might be an effective treatment.

Speaking to reporters Friday, de Blasio referred a question about Trump’s comments to the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who warned that disinfectants can be harmful if ingested or applied to the skin.

“It’s sad when you have to correct the president of the United States on a matter of science and health, but I think Dr. Barbot just did a good job replying to the president, so please let the people of the city know the guidance that she is giving,” De Blasio said.

Cuomo, who met with the president this week, declined to address Trump’s remarks directly at his own briefing.

“I don’t know much about UV rays,” Cuomo said. “Not my job. Not my business.”

Trump said Friday that he’d been speaking sarcastically but a transcript of his remarks suggested otherwise.

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ABSENTEE BALLOTS

Cuomo said he will order state elections officials to automatically mail every New Yorker a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot. The governor had previously issued an executive order allowing residents to vote absentee in the June 23 primary election.

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

— A retired farmer in Kansas whose wife has one lung shipped one of the couple’s five masks to Cuomo for use by a doctor or a nurse. Cuomo read the entire letter at his daily briefing as an example of courage and generosity in dark times. “Enclosed find a solitary N-95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used” read the hand-written letter from Dennis. “If you could, could you please give this mask to a nurse or a doctor in your city.”

— New York’s plan for taming the coronavirushinges on taking a time-tested practice to an extraordinary level: hiring an “army” of people to try to trace everyone who might be infected. In the coming weeks, the state and city plan to build up a massive system to interview thousands of newly diagnosed people and track the places they visited and people they met.

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Villeneuve reported from Albany, and Michael Hill contributed from Albany.

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