NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that May will be a "decisive" month for the city in its fight against the deadly coronavirus as he feels "very good" about things getting substantially back to normal by September if New Yorkers continue to show "discipline" in terms of social distancing measures.
New York state, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, has 263,460 coronavirus cases and 15,500 people have died from the virus so far. New York City alone has 141,754 COVID-19 cases and 10,290 deaths of people who had a positive COVID-19 laboratory test.
The city has recorded 5,121 probable deaths, people who did not have a positive COVID-19 laboratory test, but their death certificate lists as the cause of death "COVID-19" or an equivalent. He said as the city plans its gradual re-opening in the coming weeks and months, testing will be crucial to ensure the infection rate does not spike.
"Obviously, testing is going to be crucial in May we go into heavy testing and contact tracing. That's going to help us constrain this disease. So, I know what we got to do in May and I know it's going to take time to achieve the further beating back of the disease," the Mayor said in a radio show on Thursday.
"I feel very good about things getting substantially back to normal by September. So, the question becomes what happens in those middle months - June, July, August. How fast can we go? And that's the great unknown," he said.
The Mayor underlined that the month of May "now becomes decisive" for the city in its fight against coronavirus. "We've got to hold on to this kind of tough discipline approach while bringing into play a lot more testing and the kind of test-and-trace approach I've talked about the last few days. That means heavy contact tracing," he said.
The Mayor said New Yorkers will have to continue to show "discipline" in terms of social distancing and wearing masks while out in public as the city ramps up testing and contact tracing in the days ahead.
"If we don't have enough testing, for example, if the federal government doesn't step up and there's just not enough testing, it's going to go slower. But somewhere between the end of May and the beginning of school (in September) is going to be a point where we start to loosen up," he added.
He said that the most important actions undertaken across the city, including closing down nonessential businesses, schools, bars and restaurants, requiring people to stay home to the maximum extent possible and to practice social distance "has really added up".
Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his daily press briefing, announced preliminary results of phase one of the state's antibody testing survey. The survey developed a baseline infection rate by testing 3,000 people at grocery stores and other box stores over two days in 19 counties and 40 localities across the state.
The results show that 13.9 per cent of the population have COVID-19 antibodies and are now immune to the virus. Cuomo said taking the 13.9 per cent figure into account, it can be assumed about 2.7 million people in the city have been infected.
"What we found so far is the statewide number is 13.9 percent tested positive for having the antibodies. It means these are people who were infected and developed the antibodies to fight the infection. So they were infected 3 (to) 6 weeks ago, but they had the virus, they developed the antibodies and they are recovered," Cuomo said.
Cuomo added that the 15,500 death toll for the state is not an "accurate total number of deaths" since these fatalities are only hospitalisation or nursing home deaths and do not include people who died in their home and were not in a hospital or a nursing home.
"When we say there are 15,500 deaths, that number is going to go up. (The current death toll) is not accurate because there will have been many other deaths that were never tested for COVID that should be attributed to that number," he said.