New York reported less than 500 deaths in a single day from the coronavirus for the first time in nearly three weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, stressing that continuous drop in hospitalizations suggest that the state is descending from the “plateau” of COVID-19 infections.

Cuomo said that another 478 people had died in New York on April 19, the lowest single-day toll in more than two weeks and the first time that the COVID-19 number of fatalities fell below the 500 mark.

“Worst news is the number of lives lost, that number is still horrifically high. If you’re looking for the optimist view, it’s not as bad as it was but 478 New Yorkers died yesterday from this terrible virus,” he said. The death toll of 478 was down for the sixth straight day, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 14,347.

Cuomo said three-day average in number of hospitalized virus patients was also lower for the sixth straight day to 16,428, down from a peak of nearly 19,000. New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, has lost more than 13,000 people to COVID-19 and has more than 226,000 known infections.

The governor said as signs point to a decline in the coronavirus infection across the state, authorities are now determining how fast New York can come down from the plateau of infections. “We are on the plateau and it’s basically flat and then the question was how long we’re gonna be on this plateau. The question now is, assuming we’re off the plateau and we’re seeing a descent, how long is that the descent and how steep is the descent,” he said.

“Nobody knows. Just as nobody knew how long the ascent was, nobody can tell you how long the descent is,” he said. Cuomo said while everyone is “anxious” to re-open the economy and come out of the shutdowns, “you don’t need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes, a reference to several anti-lockdown protests taking place across the US.

He reiterated that re-opening the economy will significantly be dependent on the number of tests being conducted to keep track of the virus infection rate. “And this is my number one concern, every day. Do no harm. Don’t let that infection rate go up, and that’s testing, and that is watching the dial,” he said.

As Cuomo was giving his press briefing, President Donald Trump tweeted that states, and not the federal government, are responsible for testing.

“Last month all you heard from the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats was, ‘Ventilators, Ventilators, Ventilators.’ They screamed it loud & clear, & thought they had us cold, even though it was the State’s task. But everyone got their V’s, with many to spare. Now they scream….

“… ‘Testing, Testing, Testing,’ again playing a very dangerous political game. States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing – But we will work with the Governors and get it done. This is easy compared to the fast production of thousands of complex Ventilators!,” Trump tweeted.

When asked for a response to Trump’s tweet, Cuomo said the president is “right. “The testing is up to the states, which will implement the tests and logistically coordinate the tests. For example, in this state I should make the determinations as to what labs participate in testing,” he said.

The New York State Department of Health has begun conducting a statewide antibody testing survey from today. The testing survey will sample 3,000 people for a population of 19.5 million people.

“We are going to sample people in this state, thousands of people in this state, across the state to find out if they have the antibodies. That will tell us, for the first time, what per cent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now at least short-term immune to the virus. This will be the first, true snapshot of what we are really dealing with,” Cuomo said.

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