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Gertrude Robertson Examines New York's Current Status Amidst COVID-19

Few areas have been ravaged by the COVID-19 outbreak to the extent experienced by New York, a state that, at the time of writing, has reported more than 350,000 cases and an excess of over 27,000 deaths. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that New York City's death toll likely surpasses that official count.

Gertrude Robertson, an occupational therapist in Brooklyn, New York, reviews the circumstances presently surrounding her state as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown Until June

Certain areas of New York might commence in re-opening non-essential businesses this coming weekend, but New York City will be excluded from this possibility, Gertrude Robertson notes. Bill de Blasio, the city's mayor, announced on Monday that they are not yet ready and that the lockdown will extend into June. In his own words, the mayor Bill de Blasio stated that "June is when we're going to potentially be able to make some real changes if we continue our progress." For the time being, the number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and positive test rates, though trending downward, are still too worrying to consider a re-opening this month.

New Nursing Home Regulations

Nursing homes have accounted for a third of all COVID-19 deaths within the United States, prompting New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to finalize new protection policies for people residing in these facilities. Now, if a nursing home is unable to provide the appropriate care for a person, they are instructed to transfer him or her out of the facility. There are roughly 100,000 New Yorkers living in long-term facilities at the moment and the Department of Health is willing to relocate anyone who is stranded without a transfer destination. What this means is that many of these people will be sent to hospitals that are already operating beyond capacity. Nursing home workers are now to be tested twice a week for the virus.

Re-Opening Strategy

New York's re-opening plan will be executed in four phases throughout 10 regions, hinging on specific progress being made against the coronavirus first, Gertrude Robertson explains. Requirements include declines in hospitalization rates, new cases and reported deaths, the availability of hospital and ICU beds, and expanded testing and contract tracing.

The regions that meet these prerequisites proceeded with phase one when the New York PAUSE order concluded on May 15, permitting construction, manufacturing and certain retail businesses to re-open for curbside pickups. Phase one's outcomes will be evaluated after a two-week trial and, if the data is encouraging, phase two will begin, giving more retails, professional service businesses and real estate firms the nod to re-open. After phase two is assessed, and if it proves to be successful, phase three will allow the hospitality industry to re-open. Then, if all goes well, arts, recreation and education businesses will be next in line for phase four. A few upstate regions already qualify to start phase one.

Any business that does re-open will be tasked with adopting specific safety precautions, which include: modifying workplace hours and shifts to reduce employee volume in the workplace; enacting social distancing protocols; restricting non-essential travel for workers; demanding all employees and customers to wear masks when frequent contact with others occurs; performing strict cleaning and sanitation practices; complying with a continuous health-screening process that people must adhere to before entering the workplace; developing a liability process; and be vigilant in the tracing, tracking and reporting of cases.

Academic School Years Scrapped

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo confirmed that schools across the state will remain closed for the academic year, including colleges. A glimmer of hope is still prevalent for the opening of summer schools that can hold in-person instructions, with a decision intended to be made by month's end. New York schools must develop re-opening plans to be approved by the state, asking questions such as: how can a school monitor the spread of COVID-19; when and how will extracurricular activities re-open; do the protocols for special student populations change; how will housing, meals and gatherings function at college campuses; what steps need to be followed to ensure student mental health; and how can colleges collaborate to share services and offer opportunities across public and private systems.

Status of Temporary Field Hospitals

Two weeks ago, the COVID-19 field hospital established at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center closed after treating over 1,000 patients, Gertrude Robertson says. Although the last few dozen patients were discharged from the hospital, the facility will stay untouched and ready just in case a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak impacts New York City. A second temporary field hospital, a 68-bed facility formed by Samaritan's Purse in Central Park, is also expected to close in the coming weeks, along with other similar facilities that have been set up to care for the overwhelming number of patients.

Testing Numbers and Parameters

On March 11, Governor Cuomo announced that the state would contract with 28 labs in an effort to increase testing capabilities for COVID-19. Two days later, New York received federal approval for local testing, free for all eligible state residents. Drive-through facilities, which prioritize sampling for individuals who are among the highest risk population, are now open in several areas. At the time of writing, over 1.3 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state.

An online pool created by the state will give people a good idea of whether they should receive a COVID-19 test. The state's Department of Health specifies that testing shall be authorized by a health care provider under the following guidelines: an individual has come within proximate contact of another person known to be positive; an individual has traveled to a country where the CDC has issued a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice, showing symptoms of the illness; an individual is quarantined and has displayed symptoms of COVID-19; an individual is symptomatic and has not tested positive for any other infection; and other cases with facts or circumstances approved by the treating clinician in consultation with the state and local department of health officials.

Gertrude Robertson Looks to the Future

While the state of New York has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gertrude Robertson knows that it will overcome the crisis. There is light at the end of the tunnel and we are all moving towards it.

In the meantime, all we can do is stay positive, and, of course, maintain precautions such as social distancing and washing our hands!

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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