‘Truly Disturbing’ COVID-Related Illness Hitting Children, Cuomo Says

Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held his May 9 briefing at his New York City office.

Three New York children, reportedly including one teen from Suffolk County, have died from a coronavirus-linked illness over the last three days. Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday that 73 children, mainly toddlers or those in elementary school, have now been treated for this illness in hospitals across the state.

On Friday, Cuomo announced that the State Department of Health was investigating the situations where children were getting sick with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, an illness that causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body, and toxic shock syndrome. By Saturday, two more children were found to have died from the Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome, “truly disturbing,” Cuomo said. Those children happen to have the COVID-antibodies or were positive for COVID, but did not present with COVID symptoms when they entered the hospital, the governor said.

“Though rare, we urge parents to be vigilant,” he said.

On Thursday, a 5-year-old boy passed away in New York City from COVID-related complications, Cuomo announced on Friday. Other new sources reported a 7-year-old died in Westchester County and a teenager died on Friday. State officials are looking into the deaths of other children, as well.

“This would be really painful news and open up an entirely different chapter,” the governor said.

Initially, COVID-19 did not appear to be affecting children as much as adults, and were thought to only be vehicles of transmission. “We’re not so sure that is the fact anymore,” he said.

Immediate care should be sought for children who have a prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, a change in skin color, trouble breathing or rapid breathing, or a racing heart or chest pain. Children who are too sick to drink fluids or if parents are having difficulty feeding infants are also signs.

At the request of the Centers for Disease Control, New York is helping to develop national criteria for identifying and responding to this syndrome.

Also, state health officials are working with the New York Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct a genome and RNA sequence study to better understand the disease and the possible genetic basis for this syndrome.

“We still have a lot to learn about this virus. Every day is another eye-opening situation,” he said.

Hospitalizations dropped to 572 new cases on Saturday — a figure that hasn’t been so low since March 20. The number of deaths, however, have remained “an infuriating constant,” Cuomo said as he reported 226 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Federal Aid

Cuomo, noting the unpredictable nature of the federal government’s pandemic response, urged in the strongest of terms for more federal aid to embattled states at his briefing, noting the government had moved relatively swiftly to help businesses and provide needed medical supplies but ignored action on other fronts.

Money has been slow in coming for first responders, police and emergency personnel, Cuomo said. “This is a highly stressful period, anxiety, stress, health issues, substance abuse, and alcohol problems. I can’t believe the feds . . . how can they ignore state government and these working Americans?”

U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries attended the press conference by video and Cuomo urged him to go to Washington and “make the case for New York . . . we’re tough, smart, united, and disciplined.”

Cuomo said it was a matter of priorities. “I understand you want to take care of our airlines, but how about our working people, our police and our firefighters?”

According to the latest available numbers, Cuomo said there were 335,804 cases of COVID-19 in New York, the disease spread by the coronavirus that have resulted in 26,358 deaths.

Minority Communities

On Saturday, Cuomo announced that the state launched a new initiative to expand access to testing in low-income communities and communities of color, after new data shows 20 of the 21 zip codes with the most new COVID hospitalizations have greater than average black and/or Latino populations.

The state is partnering with Northwell Health, the largest health system in New York, which will set up more than 20 new testing sites at churches in predominantly minority communities. Churches will help with outreach to explain the importance of testing. Some sites will open the week of May 12, while others will open the week of May 19.

PAUSE Not Extended

While some news outlets reported the Governor’s executive order, New York on PAUSE, was extended from May 15 to June 6, that was not the case. Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the Governor, Tweeted on Saturday that an executive order issued on Friday extended he underlying legal authority for the executive order, but did not change the directives. It still stands to expire on May 15, as of now.

Subway Shutdown

Cuomo again touted the fact that the subway system in New York City is shut down every morning from 1 to 5 AM. “This is the first time in history” this has been done. The system in cleaned and disinfected, “to protect our frontline people.” He lamented the fact that there “are more homeless people than ever.”

Bellone Wants Veterans Honored

Suffolk County Steve Bellone said at his daily presser on Saturday that he is urging federal officials to allow flags to be distributed at the graves of veterans on Memorial Day. The practice, carried out all over the county, has been suspended this year because of the virus. He said he urged the VA administration to work with the county to find a way to honor the fallen heroes. Cub Scouts, Boys Scouts, and Girl Scouts have in the past set the flags at Calverton National Ceremony.

As he did yesterday, he praised the greatest generation that survived the great depression, fought in World War II, and then built the most powerful country in the world.

Field Satellite Closing

After seeing about 2600 patients at the coronavirus triage sites, the ER Field Satellite at Stony Brook University’s South P Lot will be closing to patients. All equipment will remain inside the tents should the need for this service arise in the future. Stony Brook Medicine healthcare workers staffing the ER Field Satellite will now be redeployed back to Stony Brook University Hospital. The decision comes as the number of patients visiting the ER Field Satellite has continued to decline.

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