By Nathan Layne and Barbara Goldberg
(Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo noted on Monday that hospitalizations of coronavirus patients are down and the rate of rise in deaths has leveled off in the hardest-hit state, suggesting the crisis may be plateauing, but he warned against complacency and extended a closure of businesses and schools.
"While none of this good news, the possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen," Cuomo told a daily briefing, warning that the numbers remain grim and that it was not certain the state had turned the corner.
"If we are plateauing we are plateauing at a high level."
Cuomo said hospitalizations had declined along with admissions to intensive care units and intubations - the process of inserting a breathing tube for use in mechanical ventilation, signaling a "possible flattening of the curve."
While hospitalizations are down, the number of coronavirus cases in the state increased by 7 percent over the past 24 hours to 130,689. Deaths linked to the disease rose by 599 to 4,758, roughly on par with the 594 increase reported a day earlier.
Cuomo also said that he was extending an order to keep non-essential businesses and schools for another two weeks until April 29, and chided residents who he said did not adhered to guidelines in seeking to enjoy good weather over the weekend.
"This virus has kicked our rear end," Cuomo said. "Now is not the time to slack off from what we are doing."
Cuomo said New York was "beyond capacity" in its need for ventilators and its hospitals were converting BiPAP machines, which are used to treat sleep apnea among other ailments, and taking other measures to make up for the shortages of the ventilators.
He said that so far no one had died due to a lack of equipment.
"The people we lost are the people we couldn't save," he said.
(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)