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Ex-CDC chief says if New York had acted sooner ‘the state’s death toll could have been 80% lower’

NEW York's coronavirus death toll could have been "80 per cent lower" if the state had acted sooner, a former CDC chief says.

About 140,000 people have contracted the virus in the Empire State, with 5,500 deaths.

More than 4,500 people have perished in New York City alone.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, who has also been the head of NYC's Health Department, says that state leaders such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo should have had more of a sense of urgency.

He believes the outbreak in the state could have been reduced by 50 to 80 per cent, according to The New York Times.

“Flu was coming down, and then you saw this new ominous spike. And it was COVID," Frieden told the newspaper.

"And it was spreading widely in New York City before anyone knew it.

"You have to move really fast. Hours and days. Not weeks.

"Once it gets a head of steam, there is no way to stop it.”

Frieden told The Times that New York should have closed schools, stores and restaurants and go all in for social distancing several weeks earlier instead of waiting for states such as California and Washington to do so.

San Francisco closed schools closed on March 12 when it had 18 confirmed cases and Ohio shuttered schools on the same day with five confirmed cases, according to The Times.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio closed schools three days later when the Big Apple had more than 300 cases.

“New York City as a whole was late in social measures,” Isaac Weisfuse, a former NYC deputy health commissioner, told The Times.

“Any after-action review of the pandemic in New York City will focus on that issue.

"It has become the major issue in the transmission of the virus.”

“Everything was slow,” Councilman Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, told the newspaper.

“You have to adapt really quickly, and nothing we were doing was adapting quickly.”

Cuomo had expressed optimism a little more than a month ago that the state could handle the crisis.

“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers - I speak for the mayor also on this one - we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” the governor said on March 2, according to The Times.

“So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

Instead, the death toll keeps rising to new levels.

Cuomo said Wednesday in his daily briefing that there have been 779 new fatalities, the second day in a row there were more than 700 coronavirus deaths in the state.

The governor told The Times that “every action I took was criticized at the time as premature."

"The facts have proven my decisions correct.”

The increased death toll in New York City comes as new hospital admissions have dropped on average over several days.

Cuomo said Tuesday the death tally is a “lagging indicator” that reflects the loss of critically ill people hospitalized earlier.

The state has been recording more than 500 deaths a day since late last week.

More than 420,00 thousand people in the US have been infected with the coronavirus.

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