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NEW YORK - New York's governor declared Monday that the "worst is over" in his state, even as coronavirus deaths surpassed the 10,000 mark there.
"We can control the spread; feel good about that," Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing in the state capital, Albany. "The worst is over, if we continue to be smart going forward."
But he quickly cautioned that this does not mean it is time to ease up on restrictions, including social distancing and he warned against "reckless" behavior.
"We have the hand on that valve - if you turn that valve too fast, you will see that number jump right back up," Cuomo warned.
The state's hospitalization figures and the numbers of patients requiring intubation to be on breathing machines are down, and new cases of COVID-19 are slowing but still average about 11,000 new confirmed cases each day.
New York state has reported 195,000 confirmed coronavirus cases to date - more than either Spain or Italy. The real numbers are likely much higher, as people experiencing mild or moderate symptoms who do not require hospitalization are encouraged to remain at home and are overwhelmingly not tested.
The state death toll crossed a new threshold Monday, reaching 10,056 - nearly half of all U.S. coronavirus fatalities.
Despite this mixed news, Cuomo said he is in discussion with other regional governors about how they will reopen their state economies and start getting non-essential workers back to their jobs and students back to school.
"It is a delicate balance," Cuomo said. "None of this has been done before," he added, of the unprecedented scope of this health crisis.
He said any reopening plan would include a gradual redeployment of non-essential workers combined with more diagnostic and antibody testing.
"It is not going to be we flick a switch and everybody comes out of their house and gets in their car and waves and hugs each other and the economy starts," he cautioned. "It's not going to happen that way."
Regional Plan to Reopen
Governor Cuomo convened a conference call Monday with his Democratic counterparts in five northeastern states - New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware - to discuss a coordinated regional approach to restarting their state economies.
"We should start looking forward to "reopening," but reopening with a plan and a smart plan because if you do it wrong, it can backfire," Cuomo said.
He announced that the six states are creating a working group which will begin meeting on Tuesday to create guidelines expected in a matter of weeks.
"I don't want to keep people out of work one day longer than necessary," said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. "However, we need to do it safely - which means that we need a smart, targeted approach to slowly open the economy in a way that keeps everybody - most especially the elderly, the vulnerable and those with preexisting conditions - safe."
The working group will be made up of the head of economic development, the state's top health official and the governor's chief of staff from each of the six states.