July 20 (Reuters) - New York state reported the fewest hospitalizations from the coronavirus in four months on Monday just as New York City entered a new phase of reopening, but the progress was eclipsed by the rapid spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in the United States.
The state, at one time the epicenter of the pandemic, recorded eight deaths on Sunday while the total number of people hospitalized for the disease fell to 716, the fewest since March 18, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Cuomo called the figures “good news,” although a Reuters analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project showed cases rose in the past week for the first time since April, to more than 5,000, breaking a 13-week streak of declines.
Elsewhere, nearly every metric for the country as a whole was growing worse including a rising number of cases, deaths, hospitalizations and rates of positive test results. The virus has killed 140,000 Americans and infected some 3.7 million, both figures leading the world.
The city of Los Angeles is on the brink of issuing a new stay-at-home order and at least 14 states have reported record hospitalizations so far in July, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.
Meanwhile, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing for schools to reopen in a few weeks and resisting a federal mandate that people wear masks in public, part of what Cuomo called an “incompetent” federal government response.
“I’ve said to the president from Day One: This virus does not respond to politics,” Cuomo told a news conference. “The solution is medicine and science.”
The governor said the country was still “totally unprepared” as other states lagged in testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment or doctors and nurses.
“Their mistake was they listened to the president,” Cuomo said, while also blasting “stupid and reckless” people in his own state who persistently gather in large groups.
Trump denied trying to play down the danger in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, blaming China for allowing the virus to escape and criticizing experts for being wrong in their early analysis of the outbreak.
Trump called Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, an “alarmist.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Monday said the United States now has better testing capacity and more personal protective equipment.
“This administration really fights to protect our freedoms but we want people to know freedom comes with responsibility,” Adams told Fox News. “And part of that responsibility means wearing a face covering when you go out, washing your hands, trying to watch your distance around other people.”
Governor Cuomo cleared New York City to join the rest of his state in Phase Four, based on the recommendation of health experts, but unlike the rest of the state, indoor dining in restaurants is still prohibited.
In the new phase, New York City will allow low-risk outdoor activity, entertainment at 33 percent capacity and professional sports events. But Major League Baseball’s Yankees and Mets will start their seasons in empty New York City ballparks.
Schools may resume in September with both in-class and remote learning, but state guidance only allows schools to reopen in areas where the daily infection rate is below 5% of all tests for the novel coronavirus.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Maria Caspani, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Howard Goller