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Coronavirus Update: Cuomo Warns Playgrounds In NYC May Be Shut If People Aren't Using Safe Social Distancing Practices

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo again warned that playgrounds in New York City may be closed down if people do not practice responsible social distancing.

More changes are in store for the landscape of New York City and state. One involving parks comes with a threat: Misuse it and you'll lose it, reports CBS2's Dave Carlin.

"One issue we had was in New York City, where we had a higher level of density than we wanted, especially in the New York City parks, especially with young people," he said. "I've been as direct as I can. And as blunt as I can on young people and the misinformation that they have. You can catch the coronavirus," he said. "You may think you are a superhero, you're really not. You can catch it. And you can transfer it, which makes you dangerous to the people who you love. But the New York City parks have been a problem."

Parks, once inviting and benign, have become increasingly dangerous in terms of the spread of coronavirus, when too many people jam in to a small space. Making necessary this new mandate from Cuomo: "No close contact sports in a playground. No basketball, for example. You cannot do it."

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The city will monitor parks. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are in agreement: They get locked up if they get clogged up.

"We're asking people to do that on a voluntary basis, if there is noncompliance with that. We will then make it mandatory and we will actually close the playground. We don't want to do that because playgrounds are a place to go out and get open air, but you have to exercise social density even in a playground. And again, it's voluntary. The mayor is going to make it clear that this is important to the people of the city. If it doesn't happen, we will actually close down the playgrounds, I don't want to do that. But we do need to reduce the spread of the infection. And that is what is most important," Cuomo said.

So where else can people go? Soon, to wide open spaces where traffic jams used to be.

"Open streets. People want to walk, they want to go out and get some air. You want a less dense area. So pilot closing streets to cars, opening streets to pedestrians," Cuomo said.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, there are 20,011 positive cases of COVID-19 in the city and 280 fatalities.

A makeshift morgue has been set up outside Bellevue Hospital in case the city's permanent morgues fill up, the medical examiner's office says. It's just another image driving home the severity of the situation.

Elmhurst Hospital in Queens confirmed Wednesday night that 13 people died from coronavirus over the course of just 24 hours.

In a statement, officials describe Elmhurst as the "epicenter" of the COVID-19 crisis, saying the staff is going "above and beyond" to save lives.

The hospital says more workers and supplies are being "surged" to the facility to keep pace with the overflow of new patients.

Current coronavirus projections show about 15% of people who contract COVID-19 will require hospitalization, Cuomo said.

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Gives Coronavirus Update

New York will need up to 140,000 hospital beds, and has a current capacity of roughly 53,000 beds. There will be a need for 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators, well more than the state's current capacity of approximately 3,000-4,000.

The peak of the pandemic in New York is now about 21 days away, Cuomo said.

Cuomo also said people are responding to his call for a reserve "surge" force of medical professionals.

In addition to the need for beds and equipment, there's also a need for staff, and that 46,000 medical professionals had responded to calls for volunteers to support the medical and mental health system.

Cuomo said that projections suggest that social distancing measures the city and state have implemented have somewhat slowed the rate of infection. The current amount for medical supplies in New York is sufficient for the moment, he said, but not for three weeks from now.

The key piece of equipment remains ventilators. There's 3,000 in the current system, the state has purchased 7,000 which are on the way, and the federal government is sending 4,000. But even with that done, it still is short of the estimated need of 40,000.

"That is our single greatest challenge," Cuomo said.

New York City alone needs 15,000 ventilators, de Blasio said Wednesday.

"Supplies have come in from the federal government, from the state government and elsewhere that have certainly improved our situation this week, that will help us get into next week," he said. "The goal for New York City is 15,000 ventilators, so the numbers that we have from this week gets us about one-sixth of the way there."

Cuomo said New York foresees such a demand for ventilators it is now experimenting with splitting one for use for two patients.

Businesses Close Stores Nationwide In Response To Coronavirus Pandemic
A sign warns residents to take steps to contol the outbreak at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn as the coronavirus outbreak continued unabated on March 19, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)

Cuomo said he's spoken with President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner about the demand for ventilators, suggesting a "rolling deployment" of supplies, having them come first to New York where need is greatest and most urgent, and then redeploying that equipment once the apex has passed and sending it to the next community in need.

"No one has these ventilators, and no one ever anticipated a situation where you would need this number of ventilators to deal with a public health emergency. So we have purchased, everything that can be purchased. We're now in a situation that we're trying to accelerate production of these ventilators and a ventilator is a complicated piece of equipment," Cuomo said. "No one has a stockpile of these. The federal government has to acquire them the same way we have to acquire them."

"There is no medical stockpile in Washington that magically can make them appear," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that incoming ventilators are being deployed in New York to hospitals based on their needs.

De Blasio wants the federal government to maximize the use of the Defense Production Act.

"I spoke to the governor, Governor Cuomo, last night and this morning, and he mentioned that, in his remarks, that he's using the, that we are using, and I think he feels because he understands negotiation, he thinks we're using very appropriately the Defense Production Act, and we are. We're using it where needed," Trump said.

Roughly 100,000 New Yorkers have now been tested and 30,811 people are positive for the virus.

There are 3,805 people hospitalized, and 888 people in ICU units with ventilators so far. ICU patients account for roughly 3% of total cases.

"That's my mother, that's your mother. That's your sister. These are people we love. These are our grandparents. And we're going to do everything we can to protect every one of them," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said 40,000 retired medical professionals had signed up to be a reserve "surge" medical force, and 6,000 mental health professionals had volunteered to help talk to people feeling stressed about the pandemic. People can call 1-844-863-9314 to schedule an appointment for a phone session.


The governor thanked New Yorkers volunteering and or stepping up including retired doctors and nurses, and he said New York is up to this challenge.

Another way our landscape changes are new hospitals in new unexpected locations, and not just the previously announced 1,000 beds at the Javits Center.

"But then we're looking at hotels we're looking at former nursing homes, converting other facilities to make up the differential. So, a lot, creative, aggressive, but in life, you do what you have to do," Cuomo said.

He said we are in need of help now but he vows we will pay forward the good deeds when it becomes someplace else's turn.

"Because we will overcome. And we will show the other communities across this country how to do this," Cuomo said.

Officials urge everyone to hang in there and be realistic because the sooner we all truly stay apart, the sooner we can come back together.

"I think we're much better off being girded for battle and knowing the truth. So I believe that April is going to be tougher than March and I think at this point, May could be even tougher than April, and people need to be ready for that," de Blasio said. "But the notion that everything might be fine by Easter, I don't know where on earth that idea comes from. It certainly does not apply to anything we're seeing here in New York City."

The mayor says if that changes, he'll be the first one to share it.

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