New York State announced its first death from the coronavirus Saturday as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced insurance companies will waive copays for telemedicine visits. Cuomo also confirmed 100 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 524 cases in New York.
On a conference call with reporters Saturday, Cuomo said the victim is an 82-year-old woman in Brooklyn who had a pre-existing respiratory disease of emphysema, and how had been hospitalized since March 3rd.
"She then contracted corona virus on top of the emphysema, and she passed," Cuomo said.
The governor says the State Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive co-pays for telehealth visits. The aim is to encourage New Yorkers to seek medical attention from their homes rather than visit an already overwhelmed hospital or doctor's office and help reduce the strain on the healthcare system as well as prevent further spread of the virus.
"We are encouraging people to use tele-medicine," Cuomo said. "We don't want them to go to emergency rooms."
Cuomo says he also wants to add a second drive through testing center in Long Island in the next few days, modeled on the one now operating in virus hotspot New Rochelle.
The governor says he's signing an executive order to let schools in the state be open less than the required 180 days per year, and still be able to qualify for aid. Many schools have announced temporary closures.
The governor says for now he's not recommending that schools close, he's leaving that decision up to the individual districts.
If a child, teacher or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, then a school will be automatically shut down for 24 hours to clean the building and assess the situation.
The governor says he is recommending that the political campaign petitioning process, which is under way for June primaries be halted. He says he's talking with legislative leaders about how to change the rules for how a candidate qualifies to be on the ballot.