Coronavirus hospitalizations in New York City appear to have stabilized and reduced the immediate need for ventilators, showing that the city needs to "double down" on social distancing measures that are helping to curb the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
De Blasio cautioned that the data was preliminary and there is a risk that coronavirus cases could begin to increase at a faster rate if residents do not adhere to social distancing and shelter-in-place policies.
The data, the mayor said at a press conference, "tells us we actually have to double down, stick to the strategies that are working."
"We know we're not out of the woods; it's too early," de Blasio said, cautioning that the data should not be used to draw "bigger conclusions."
He warned that COVID-19 infections are "going to reach a huge percentage of us," most likely more than half the population.
As of Wednesday morning, the city reported 77,967 total cases of coronavirus, a 7.8% increase from Tuesday morning. There have been 3,602 deaths from the virus as of Wednesday morning, 400 more than the prior day's tally, a 12.5% jump, according to city data.
Hospitalizations stood at 19,177 as of Tuesday night, with 3,844 more hospitalizations than the night before, a 25% jump, according to the most recent available data.
Coronavirus hospitalizations as of Tuesday represented 26% of the total number of COVID-19 cases in the city, compared with 22% of all cases the prior day.
For the first time, the mayor released demographic information about fatalities from coronavirus infections, showing a disparity in deaths among minority groups.
Hispanics, who account for 29% of the city's population, have accounted for 34% of the COVID-19 deaths, while blacks, who account for 22% of the population, made up 28% of coronavirus deaths.
De Blasio said whites, who comprise 32% of the population, account for 27% of coronavirus deaths.
And 7% of the fatalities are Asians, who make up 14% of the city's population.
The mayor's comments came as New York City is on track to hit its peak of coronavirus cases this week, according to statistical models cited by public officials.
New York City and surrounding counties in New York state have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
But pointing to the hospitalization rate data, and the related need for ventilators to treat infected patients, de Blasio said Wednesday, "We're now seeing some leveling off. ... Something has started to move."
He noted that while he and health officials recently "thought we would need a huge number of ventilators just to keep the hospital system running, just to save the lives that could be saved," that number "has gone down and it's gone down again."
Last week, hospitals in the city were increasing their use of ventilators for coronavirus patients by 200 to 300 ventilators each day. This week, de Blasio said, the increase in ventilator use has slowed to 100 or fewer per day.
"That's striking," he said.
None of the data, he said, predicts when the outbreak is going to subside.
De Blasio also lauded residents for taking mitigation efforts seriously and helping slow the spread of the virus.
"When asked to make these massive changes, New Yorkers went ahead and did it," the mayor said. "What we've seen in these last few days is that social distancing, shelter-in-place, these are ideas that make a huge difference."
He said the data seen in recent days "gives me hope, more hope than ever."
But de Blasio warned that the experience in other areas of the world show the risk of relaxing mitigation efforts.
In those places, he noted, "this awful ferocious disease started to reassert itself," he said.