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New York state’s coronavirus deaths now more than double 9/11 fatalities

A transit commuter in New York City.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

New York reached a grim new milestone Wednesday in the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting 779 new deaths, the state’s highest number yet for a single day.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state’s flags lowered to half-staff as the confirmed death toll there reached 6,268, more than double the fatalities in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“It is breathtaking,” Cuomo said.

Nationwide, health authorities have confirmed more than 14,500 deaths from the coronavirus infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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After New York, the states with the highest number of deaths are New Jersey, with 1,504; Michigan, 959; Louisiana, 652; and California, 485, according to officials and data reporting.

More signs emerged Wednesday that drastic social isolation measures were having a positive impact in New York. Most importantly, the number of patients hospitalized has continued to decline over the last several days.

“We are flattening the curve by what we are doing,” Cuomo said.

New York joined several other states Wednesday in releasing a racial breakdown of those who died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In New York City, it showed that African Americans, who constitute 22% of the population, made up 28% of those who died, similar to disparities that are much wider in other parts of the country.

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In Michigan, African Americans are 14% of the population but account for 40% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19.

Cuomo said he was launching a data study with the State University of New York to research the racial imbalance, saying it seems that poor people often pay the highest price in natural disasters like this pandemic or Hurricane Katrina.

“The people stranded on those rooftops were not rich white people,” he said. “Why?”

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the preliminary data also indicated that Latinos, who make up 29% of the city’s population, account for 34% of those who have died from COVID-19.

Coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic and health news.

“It’s sick,” he said. “It’s troubling. It’s wrong, and we are going to fight back with everything we’ve got.”

De Blasio also said Wednesday that the New York City death toll omitted hundreds of people who died at home without ever having been tested for the coronavirus. The city plans to begin including them in its daily updates on fatalities.

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“We’re not talking about, you know, 10 people, 20 people,” he told CNN. “We’re talking about something like 100, 200 people per day.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House team overseeing the government response to the pandemic, warned Wednesday of a new wave of infections if Americans started loosening up on stay-at-home restrictions.

“If people start going out again and socially interacting,” she said, “we could see a very acute second wave very early.”

A sign hangs in the window of a Detroit restaurant last month. Michigan has been hard-hit by the pandemic.
(Getty Images)

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In Chicago, inspectors have started imposing fines this week against businesses cited for defying emergency orders to shut down. They included a gym and a bar.

In Detroit, where 26 more people died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, police have been “breaking up every group that’s starting to form, which is a risk to all of us,” Mayor Mike Duggan said.

Testing has confirmed 170 police officers and 52 firefighters in Detroit have been infected with the coronavirus, but enough have returned to work to keep emergency services fully staffed, Duggan said.

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In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Wednesday moving the state’s presidential primary from June 2 to July 7, saying he wanted to avoid the kind of health hazards that Wisconsin voters faced as they stood in line to vote on Tuesday.

“Our democracy cannot be a casualty of COVID-19,” Murphy said. “We want to make sure everyone can vote without endangering their health and safety.”

Murphy has been trying to locate refrigerated trucks to relieve overwhelmed morgues and funeral homes in his state’s New York City suburbs. On Wednesday he tweeted that a convenience store chain had offered help.

In New York, Cuomo said he was signing an executive order to ensure all voters could cast absentee ballots in the state’s June 23 primary.

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New polling released Wednesday found strong public approval for governors’ handling of the coronavirus crisis: 74%, a Quinnipiac University survey found. But just 46% of voters approve of President Trump’s response to the pandemic, and 51% disapprove, the survey found.

A survey by the Monmouth University Polling Institute has found 55% of Americans think the federal government is not doing enough to help states hit hard by the outbreak, and just 37% think it has done enough.

“The public seems to view this as a national crisis that requires a national response on par with the aggressive approach taken by the states,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth institute.

State health officials have ramped up coronavirus testing, but California still is behind most other states, leaving undiagnosed patients to unknowingly spread the infections.

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