Reopening weighs economic, human tolls

ALBANY — What is the price of a human life?

That was the question Gov. Andrew Cuomo posed in his Tuesday press briefing.

“The decisions we make about reopening are really profound decisions. And the fundamental question, which we are not articulating, is how much is a human life worth?” he said.

Cuomo said there is a cost to staying closed — an economic and personal cost — but there is also a cost to reopening quickly. That the faster the state reopens, the lower the economic cost but the higher the human cost.

“That, my friends, is the decision we are really making,” he continued. “What is that balance? What is that trade-off? Because it is very real.”

Projection models now have doubled the number of expected COVID-19 deaths due to accelerating pace of reopenings nationwide. In its new projections, the Federal Emergency Management Agency expects daily cases to increase from 25,000 to 200,000.

The IHME, which is the foundation model the White House prefers, has projected the total number of coronavirus deaths by Aug. 4.

The model on April 7 had estimated 60,415 deaths, and then projected 60,308 deaths on April 17. But the estimate jumped up to 134,475 deaths on May 4.

What changed is increasing mobility among people and the easing of social distancing measures in 31 states, said Cuomo, citing IHME director Christopher Murray.

“That’s a very nice way of saying when you accelerate the reopening, you will have more people coming in contact with other people,” Cuomo said. “You’re relaxing social distancing. The more people in contact with other people, the higher the infection rate ... The more people get infected, the more people die. We know that.”

The hard truth, he said, is there’s a cost to staying closed, and a cost of reopening quickly.

“I say the cost of a human life is priceless, period. Our reopening plan doesn’t have a trade-off,” Cuomo said. “Our reopening plan says you monitor the data. You monitor the transmission rate. You monitor the hospitalization rate. You monitor the death rate. If it goes up, you have a ‘circuit breaker.’ You stop. You close the valve on reopening.”

Cuomo also called on for the state to reimagine how education is done. He asked:

• How can New York use technology to provide opportunities to students no matter where they are?

• How to provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology?

• How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students?

• How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities?

• How can we provide educators more tools to use technology?

• How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and colleges and universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives?

New York will be working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help reimagine education into the new normal.

The number of total hospitalizations basically remain flat while new COVID cases down. On Monday, 230 lives lost — 203 in hospitals and 27 in nursing homes.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1