With the coronavirus pandemic hitting some parts of New York much harder than others, Governor Cuomo has signaled that he will begin to relax shutdown restrictions in low-virus parts of the state.
Here’s a closer look at how infection and fatality rates vary from region to region.
The sharpest disparity is between upstate and downstate, with the New York City metropolitan area ranking as one of the worst hot spots in the world and upstate counties seeing infection rates below the national average.
This is an installment in a special series of #NYCoronavirus chronicles by Empire Center analysts, focused on New York’s state and local policy response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
As of Sunday, the city proper, along with Long Island and its northern suburbs (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties), had recorded almost 14,000 Covid-19 deaths, which was 97 percent of the statewide total and a third of the nationwide toll.
The impact on the other 50 counties has been far less severe, with 410 deaths as of Sunday.
Compared to the nation as a whole, upstate’s infection and fatality rates are closer to normal. If the counties north of Orange and Dutchess were their own state, its coronavirus fatality rate as of Sunday would have been 7 per 100,000. That was lower than the nationwide rate of 11 per 100,000, and it would have ranked 16th among the 50 states.
The upstate-downstate contrast was reflected in the impact of Cuomo’s ban on elective procedures in hospitals, which was designed to clear space for an expected wave of coronavirus patients. While downstate hospitals were indeed overwhelmed in recent weeks, many upstate hospitals have been furloughing employees for lack of business or revenue.
On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that hospitals in certain upstate counties could resume elective procedures on a limited basis later this month. He has also partially lifted his orders closing golf courses and marinas.
Within the upstate area, the outbreak has been worse in the more urban areas. As of Sunday, the largest upstate death toll was 143 in Erie County, home to Buffalo. That was followed by 60 in Monroe County, home to Rochester, and 19 each in Albany County and Onondaga, home to Syracuse.
Infection rates also vary widely across the state, ranging from 1.5 per 1,000 in the upstate region to 20.5 per 1,000 on Long Island and in the northern metro suburbs. These numbers are likely distorted by varying amounts of testing, with most of the effort concentrated in the metropolitan area. The share of tests coming back positive was three or four times lower in upstate counties, which tends to confirm that the virus is less prevalent in that region.
As the Empire Center’s director of health policy, Bill Hammond tracks fast-moving developments in New York’s massive health care industry, with a focus on how decisions made in Albany and Washington affect the well-being of patients, providers, taxpayers and the state’s economy.