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BY BETH DEDMAN

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that 40,000 healthcare workers, including retirees and students, have signed up to volunteer to work as part of the state’s surge healthcare force during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, plus 6,175 mental health professionals who will provide free online mental health services.

“We’ve talked about the emotional stress that this brings on people and the mental health stress and the mental challenges,” Cuomo said. “No one is really talking about this. We are all concerned about the immediate critical need. The life and death of the immediate situation which is right. But don’t underestimate the emotional trauma that people are feeling and the emotional health issues.”

The mental health professionals agreed to volunteer their time and expertise for the hotline at absolutely no charge to callers. New Yorkers can call the state’s hotline at 1-844-863-9314 to schedule a free appointment.

“God bless the 6,000 mental health professionals that are doing this 100 percent free on top of whatever they have to do in their normal practice, and I’m sure in their normal practice they’re busy,” Cuomo said. “This is really an extraordinary step by them.”

Cuomo confirmed 5,146 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 30,811 confirmed cases in New York State. Of those cases, 12 percent are in the hospital and 3 percent are in the Intensive Care Unit.

“All the noise, all the energy, it’s about that 3 percent,” Cuomo said. “Take a deep breath. Now, that 3 percent, that’s my mother, that’s your mother, that’s your sister. These are people we love. These are our grandparents. And we’re going to do everything we can to protect every one of them. And I give the people of the state of New York my word that we’re doing it. But we are talking about 3 percent of the people who tested positive who we’re worrying about.”

Cuomo also announced New York City will close streets to vehicles and open them to pedestrians to encourage social distancing. As part of the plan, Cuomo is also enacting a playground social density protocol that prohibits close contact sports.

Cuomo also urged the federal government to implement a “rolling deployment” of equipment and personnel to address the critical needs of hotspot areas with high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases instead of providing limited quantities to the entire country at once. Cuomo has pledged to personally manage the deployment of equipment to the next hotspots around the country once New York State’s number of hospitalizations goes down.

The Four Seasons Hotel on 57th street in Manhattan is the first of several hotels that is providing their facility to serve as housing for medical practitioners during this crisis free of charge.

The Public Service Commission approved postponing rate increases for nearly 2 million customers of New York American Water and National Grid upstate that were scheduled to go into effect on April 1st. The Department of Public Service is asking other utilities to consider postponing rate increases, depending on continued movement reductions due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“I can see how New Yorkers are responding,” Cuomo said. “I can see how New Yorkers are treating one another. I see the 6,000 mental health volunteers. I see the 40,000 health care workers stepping up. I see the vendors calling me, saying, “I can help.” That’s New York. That’s New York. And that, my friends, is undefeatable. And I am glad in some ways that we’re first with this situation because we will overcome and we will show the other communities across this country how to do it. We’ll be there for them. We want them to be there for us. And we will be there for each other, as we always have been.”

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