Frustrated with the federal government’s slow pace of testing for COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, Governor Cuomo says the state of New York will go it alone, and conduct its own tests.
“New York State is going to take matters into its own hands. We are going to start contracting with private labs in the state to increase our testing capacity,” Cuomo said Wednesday during a news conference.
So far, the federal government has only authorized about 5,000 tests in total across the nation, far lower than in many other countries.
New York has the second highest number of cases behind Washington State, as of Wednesday afternoon.
“There is still some complexity that the FDA needs to sign off on the actual protocols of some of these tests. That is still complicating the situation,” Cuomo said.
Taking the lead from many private colleges, which have opted to shut their doors for the remainder of the semester, Governor Cuomo announced that SUNY and CUNY campuses will cancel most classes for the rest of the semester and institute a process of remote learning.
“The campuses themselves are not going to be closed, but the goal is to reduce the congregation of multiple students,” said Beth Garvey, vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel for SUNY. “So, staggered class times, maybe breaking up class into smaller units — things of that nature.”
Fears of coronavirus have made people jittery in Albany, and while there are no plans to cancel the legislative session, it also looks increasingly like some of the big ticket policy items, like marijuana legalization, may not get done in the budget due at the end of the month.
“I think we have to focus on our priorities,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward-Cousins. “And of course our priority is always going to be public health and trying to make sure in the absence of any easy solutions, trying to make sure that we weather this storm.”
Cuomo says he spoke with business leaders, and while the state is not imposing any new rules to keep more workers at home, city-based companies are working with the state to allow staff more flexibility in working from home when possible.