As countries continue to roll back their coronavirus restrictions in a bid to rescue their dwindling economies, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the blunt question on the lips of millions around the world.
“How much is a human life worth?” he asked at his daily news briefing on Tuesday (local time).
“That’s the real discussion that no one is admitting openly or freely. But we should.”
Mr Cuomo said those attempting to revive economies need to be upfront about the human costs.
His comments come as national debate over when to reopen outbreak-ravaged economies intensifies, with Mr Cuomo saying it ultimately boils down to the value placed on people’s lives.
Political pressure is building on the Democratic governor to relax outbreak-fighting restrictions keeping people at home and off work.
As other states begin lifting restrictions, Mr Cuomo has opted for a slower approach that will allow parts of the state to phase in economic activity later this month if they meet and maintain a series of benchmarks.
“The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost — but the higher the human cost, because the more lives lost,” he said.
“That, my friends, is the decision we are really making.”
There is no dollar figure to a human life.
New York will reopen (by region) when it is safe to do so.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 5, 2020
Governor Cuomo claims his plan avoids the trade-off between economic and human costs because it will be controlled by officials constantly monitoring fatalities and hospitalisations.
The 230 new deaths reported by Mr Cuomo on Tuesday were up slightly from the previous day, but far lower than the daily peak of 799 on April 8. There have been more than 19,000 deaths in New York since the beginning of the outbreak.
The state total doesn’t include more than 5,300 New York City deaths that were blamed on the virus on death certificates but weren’t confirmed by a lab test.
New York’s hospitalisation rates continue to drop with 659 new admissions reported on Monday, the lowest number since March. There were 9,600 patients hospitalised overall.
New York kicks homeless off trains
Starting on Wednesday, New York City’s normally 24/7 subway system will shut down from 1 am to 5 am each day to clean trains and stations and kick out homeless people who have been taking up residence in subway cars.
The police department is deploying more than 1,000 officers to secure many of the system’s 472 stations. Fewer than 200 stations can be physically locked up during the shutdown.
Homeless outreach teams, consisting of officers and nurses, will be sent to 29 end-of-line stations to roust homeless people from trains that are headed out of service for cleaning, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said on Tuesday.
The police department has been increasing subway patrols in advance of the shutdown, removing about 20 homeless people per night. Most are taken to shelters, but an average of about two per night are being hospitalised for mental health evaluations at the recommendation of an outreach team nurse.
"This is a huge undertaking,” Mr Monahan said.
Although until now 24/7, the subway system has been working on a reduced schedule since March 25. Even in normal times, overnight subway service is reduced.
New York death toll re-evaluated
New York state is reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as the state faces scrutiny over how it’s protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state's nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Mr Cuomo's administration late Monday that, for the first time, includes people believed to have been killed by the coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test.
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