FILE - NY Andrew Cuomo 3-19-2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) holds his daily coronavirus briefing March 19, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Newly diagnosed cases of coronavirus once again rose significantly in New York on Thursday, and the directive on companies to send much of their workforce home was expanded.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he had predicted Thursday morning, announced that 1,769 new cases had been added to New York’s numbers, bringing the total to 4,152. Word emerged later in the day that the number of COVID-19 related deaths had risen from 20 to 26.

Numbers specific to New York City from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office showed 3,615 cases there, with 22 deaths.

On Wednesday, the governor had directed all “nonessential” businesses to have at least half of their employees work from home. The directive included a number of sectors exempt from the directive and provided for those not covered to apply for an exemption. On Thursday, Cuomo increased the percentage of workers that must be sent home to 75 percent.

“I'm going to increase the density control today,” Cuomo said during his now-daily coronavirus briefing. “No more than 25 percent of people can be in the workforce. Yesterday was 50 percent, we're reducing it again, except the essential services that we spoke about yesterday.”

As jarring as the number of cases in New York might be to some – the most of any state in the nation – Cuomo said the true number of infections is likely much higher.

“There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus who we're not testing,” he said. “There were thousands and thousands of people who had the virus before we started testing. There are thousands and thousands of people who had the virus and resolved and never knew they had the virus.”

Another directive was the announcement of a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments in the state, based on financial hardship. For those eligible, nonpayment during the grace period will not see their credit scores affected, Cuomo said.

The governor also spoke to the uncertainty of when the crisis will come to a conclusion.

“Nobody can tell you when this is going to end,” he said. “Nobody can tell you. I talked to all the experts. Nobody can say two months, four months, nine months. Nobody. It's hard living your life with that big question mark out there. Nobody can tell you when you go back to work. People can tell you that it's not just you economically, it's everyone. Take comfort in that.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, put forth a proposal to delay the payment of sales taxes by New York’s small businesses. The next installment of sales tax payments are due Friday.

“Our communities rely heavily on the economic health of our small businesses,” Carlucci said. “They support our communities by providing jobs to residents, and now small businesses cannot afford to keep staff on their payroll. We have to do everything we can to ease their burden during this difficult time.”

COVID-19 is the official name of the novel coronavirus that originated in China in December. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing and trouble breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Managing Editor

Delphine Luneau is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. She was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship was named best weekly in Illinois, and she has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.