Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill into law Saturday afternoon providing state death benefits to families of frontline workers who died from COVID-19.
The bill, S.8427/A.10528, establishes a COVID-19 death benefit for families of state and local government employees who have been on the front lines of the response to COVID-19, according to the governor’s office.
The governor thanked all frontline workers, including healthcare, transportation, custodial and other essential employees, who continued to go to work while elected officials implored most Americans to stay home, calling them “modern-day heroes.”
“I think our better angels won; our better angels rose to the occasion,” he said. “We helped each other — we protected each other...We needed people to rise above themselves to get past the pettiness to be bigger than themselves and they did it.”
“While many employers are making arrangements for workers to telecommute rather than risking illness, workers like emergency medical personnel, firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers, transit workers and many others have continued to show up every day. And for their service, many have paid the ultimate price. This legislation ensures that their families are afforded the benefits they deserve for their unimaginable loss.” Assemblymember Peter Abbate said.
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 23,848 on Saturday — up from 23,780 on Friday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 29,646.
The state saw a repeated 67 virus-related deaths Friday, including 47 in hospitals and 20 in nursing homes. New York’s COVID-19 death rate remains flat after having 67 fatalities Thursday and 74 fatalities Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Overall, that has been tremendous, tremendous progress from where we were,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The state tested 2,005,381 people in total by Saturday, revealing 369,660 total positive cases of the virus. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 3,619 patients, down 162, according to the governor’s office.
Ten more COVID-19 testing sites will open in 10 coronavirus “hotspot” ZIP codes that state officials identified with rigorous diagnostic and antibody testing. The virus remains most prevalent in low-income neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn where COVID-19 infection rates are more than 40 percent or twice the 19.9 percent infection rate of the city’s general population.
The Capital District and Western New York regions could start Phase II of the state’s four-phase reopening plan next week. The state requires at least 14 days, or one COVID-19 infection cycle, between phases. Western New York started reopening May 19. The Capital District followed on May 20.
New York City continues to prepare for a June 8 reopening. Officials will focus on the city’s hospital system next week to procure sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) in case of a second wave of the virus. Hospitals and healthcare centers cannot scramble for supplies, equipment and staffing if the state has another COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Cuomo said. They must coordinate a plan now to shift patients and resources — not in the midst of a crisis, he said.
“On the first go around, we had to design the airplane as we were flying it,” the governor said. “We want to make sure we have that refined over the next week.”
Saturday marked 91 days since New York’s first positive COVID-19 case was reported.