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USNS Comfort to depart from N.Y.; Cuomo says COVID-19 deaths still falling

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USNS Comfort to depart from N.Y.; Cuomo says COVID-19 deaths still falling
President Donald Trump announced the USNS Comfort Navy ship will depart from Pier 90 in New York City after meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who said deaths and hospitalizations in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic have declined. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 21 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump announced that the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will leave New York City after meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the White House on Tuesday.

During a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Trump said that Cuomo agreed to allow the ship to depart from the state after requesting it be deployed to relieve hospitals from excess patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic and later to treat patients diagnosed with the virus.

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"We'll be bringing the ship back at the earliest time and we'll get it ready for it's next mission, which I'm sure will be a very important one also," Trump said.

Both Trump and Cuomo described the meeting as productive and the president said they discussed plans to double testing in the state in the next few weeks, making use of medical labs throughout the state.

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"We'll all work together to help hem secure additional tests and we hope that this model will work with other states as well," Trump said.

Cuomo said he asked Trump for help with the supply chain to expand testing and called for states and localities to receive federal aid in the coronavirus relief bill that was passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

"I stayed focused on what we were there to talk about and for me, the substantive agenda was testing -- who does what, how do we get it up to scale -- and somebody has to stand up for funding for states," he said. "You can talk about small businesses and airlines. How about police? How about fire? How about teachers? And how about funding the reopening?"

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Ahead of the meeting, Cuomo reported fewer than 500 deaths in the state for the fifth straight day.

In a briefing in Buffalo, N.Y., Cuomo said coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and other indicators in his state were flat or declining. He said the latest single-day death toll, Monday's, was 481. To date, there have been 14,347 COVID-19 deaths in New York state.

Cuomo said new hospitalizations fell for the eighth day in a row, to around 1,300 -- the lowest in three weeks. The number of those in a hospital also fell.

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"The current question now ... is how long is the descent and how steep is the descent?" he asked. "That's what we are trying to figure out."

Cuomo stopped in Buffalo en route to Washington for the meeting with Trump.

A Democrat, Cuomo has criticized the federal response to the crisis as chaotic and disorganized and bemoaned the lack of medical equipment and supplies. Other times, he's thanked Trump for intervening on New York's behalf.

Trump has attacked Cuomo and made conciliatory comments. At his daily briefing on Monday, the president played edited video clips of Cuomo that were complimentary of Trump's efforts.

Nationally, the coronavirus death toll approached 43,000 Tuesday and the caseload close to 800,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been nearly 74,000 recoveries.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that a lack of consistent federal help spurred him to create the city's own stockpile of medical equipment.

"We have watched in the last few weeks that when we called for our federal government to help us, sometimes they responded, sometimes they didn't," he said. "We're not going to be fooled again."

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The new reserve will include 3,000 "bridge" ventilators from Boyce Technologies in Long Island City, N.Y., he said.

De Blasio also promised the city would stage one of its famous ticker-tape parades for front-line health workers once life returns to normal.

"We will honor those who saved us," he said.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday reported 42 new deaths, bringing the state's total since the beginning of the pandemic to more than 1,200.

State hospitals reported a 1.9 percent spike in new coronavirus patients on Sunday.

Newsom said the curve in new cases and deaths was "beginning to flatten, but it is still nonetheless rising."

"Deaths continue to rise, hospitalization numbers modestly continuing to rise and ICU numbers beginning to flatten," Newsom said. "But we're not seeing that downward trend we need to see in order to provide more clarity" on relaxing lockdown rules and reopening businesses.

In Louisiana, state health officials reported 77 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the state's total to 1,405, while the number of hospitalized patients rose slightly and the number of patients on ventilators fell.

Some 331 new coronavirus cases were identified, adding to the statewide total of nearly 25,000.

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In Michigan, state health officials said COVID-19 cases and deaths continued a recent decline on Monday.

They reported 576 new confirmed cases, pushing Michigan's total to 32,000. It was the lowest daily total since March 25. Deaths, meanwhile, numbered 77 -- the fewest since March 26.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

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