NEW YORK — President Donald Trump and the federal government must stop the denial and tell the truth about the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, before calling on the president to mandate Americans wear masks in public as the virus spreads like wildfire across the United States.

Cuomo sharply criticized the federal government for a “failure” of a coronavirus response Friday, saying Trump has made several excuses as COVID-19 outbreaks continue to spike nationwide, with rising cases in 32 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

“The denial by the federal government of the severity of this virus was followed by the federal government’s abandonment of responsibility,” Cuomo said Monday during a pandemic briefing at his Manhattan office. “They never believed it was a problem, so they didn’t believe they needed to solve it.”

The president should sign an executive order mandating all Americans to wear masks or face coverings in public, Cuomo said. The governor signed a similar mask-wearing mandate in New York in April.

“Let the president lead by example and let the president put a mask on it because we know it works — we’ve proven that it works in the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “If you want to help stop COVID-19, then start telling the people of this country the truth.”

The president has equated the rising numbers to an increase in diagnostic testing, but COVID-19 hospitalizations have climbed along with the positive U.S. cases. Available hospital and intensive care unit beds are dwindling in Arizona, Texas and Florida.

The federal government has opened 41 diagnostic COVID-19 sites to date, Cuomo said, comparing it to New York’s testing priority with more than 750 testing sites statewide. The president pressured states to quickly reopen, citing the need to restart the national economy.

“Reopening fast is not good for the economy,” Cuomo said. “It just plain hasn’t worked, and it was even a failure. ... When the virus spikes, the market goes down, not up. This was not a smart policy to rush reopening.

“The volatility … the instability … the concern about the path of this nation has roiled the markets.”

The state will require malls and recommends all businesses and offices install filters in their air filtration or cooling systems that will filter out COVID-19 and not recirculate the virus, Cuomo said Monday.

NASA has studied High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters, which have been shown to help reduce the presence of COVID-19 in air filtration systems. HEPA filters filter out particles 0.01 micron and larger. Coronavirus COVID-19 particles measure about 0.125 micron in diameter.

Air filters with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Valve rating, such as the NASA-studied HEPA filters, will be mandatory for large mall reopenings in the state, the governor said.

“We have been looking at this issue, and you see malls and air-conditioning systems in indoor spaces that have been problematic,” he explained. “We think this offers promise.”

Lawmakers and other state officials have clashed over the past week after the state delayed reopening gyms, malls and movie theaters in phase IV over concerns the air expelled by an air-conditioning or other cooling system would recirculate, instead of cleanse, the coronavirus in the air. Cuomo is particularly cautious in restarting gyms, malls and movie theaters, he has repeatedly said, because the industries are likely to draw large crowds.

Half the state — the North Country, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier and Central New York regions — started phase IV on Friday. Western New York is cleared to start the final reopening phase Tuesday.

The Gates Foundation-funded Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation updated model projects 179,106 Americans will die from COVID-19 by Oct. 1 — an increase of 10,000 more fatalities than the model the independent global health research center released two weeks ago. The White House Coronavirus Task Force follows the IHME projection.

New York has offered supplies, including masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE, health care workers, COVID-19 testing supplies, ventilators and other equipment to all states experiencing a surge. More than 30,000 health care professionals volunteered to come help New York at its virus peak earlier this spring.

“That was an amazing sign of generosity,” Cuomo said. “Any state who needs help, we stand ready. The door swings both ways in life.”

The governor expressed concern about New York’s COVID-19 rate surging from out-of-state visitors or travel to states with high virus infection rates before unveiling a large mountain-like figure made of Styrofoam at the end of Monday’s briefing. Cuomo stood, gesturing to the top of the mountain — taller than he stands — to represent the trajectory of 42-day COVID-19 incline New York climbed before taking 62 days to come down.

“This was the trajectory of COVID in our state — we don’t want to climb this mountain again,” the governor said. “That’s why we put in place the [travel] quarantine. That’s why we say the president has to step up. Doing this once in a lifetime is enough.

“The mountain is as high as you make it … We don’t want to climb a mountain range.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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