WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his aides are still scrambling to create new hospital beds and procure adequate medical equipment as the state begins its full day of a work shutdown, except for essential services.

But the governor said he’s also assigning a team to try to figure out how and when to restart the economy in the coming weeks. 

Cuomo said the effort, known as NY Forward, will look at whether, for instance, it’s safe to allow those who have already had the virus and recovered to go back to work.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is among those calling on the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act so the Trump administration can order factories to produce badly needed hospital gear to combat the coronavirus. Cuomo also said he’s looking at ways to allow mail in balloting for the April 28 presidential primary.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent part of Saturday visiting potential sites to set up temporary hospitals and negotiating with clothing manufactures and ventilator sellers to try to set up temporary hospitals and gather medical supplies in time for the expected increase in patients sick with the coronavirus who may need hospitalization.

New York has now followed California and is ordering that as of 8 p.m. Sunday, all state residents must stop going to work and stay in their homes unless they are working at jobs considered essential, or they need groceries, medicine or gasoline.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he needed to take the step in order to curb the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” Cuomo said.

A state panel tasked with reducing the state’s Medicaid budget voted on a plan to cut $2.5 billion out of the state’s health care system.

But the commission’s work likely falls far short of closing a widening budget deficit that the coronavirus pandemic is expected to create.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking more steps to reduce human density in the workplace in light of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. He said just 25% of employees can now come into the office.

“We’re reducing it again except for essential services,” said Cuomo, who added he is asking all businesses to voluntarily have all employees work from home. 

The governor said the steps are necessary to continue to try to flatten the curve and help prevent overwhelming the hospitals in the coming weeks.

New York state lawmakers voted in nearly empty chambers Wednesday on bills -- including one to give quarantined New Yorkers paid sick leave -- as they adopted new meeting rules to limit spreading the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the chief sponsor of the bill to legalize adult use of recreational marijuana said it likely will not be in the budget plan for now.

In the Senate, just five lawmakers were present: the Democratic and Republican leaders, presiding president of the Senate and the two floor leaders, along with three staff members. 

There will be new restrictions on working in New York state as Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued new mandatory density reductions Wednesday to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

Cuomo and the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania also moved to close the indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys in their states by 8 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, New York is getting help from the federal government to increase hospital beds.  

The New York state comptroller said the state’s revenues are plunging, along with the stock market, and that spells a difficult time ahead for the New York budget. 

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was asked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to recalculate the state’s finances, and he said the picture does not look good. He said the current $6 billion deficit will grow to $10 billion to $13 billion. 

“This is an extraordinary time that we are going through, and it makes estimating the revenue impact of the pandemic very, very difficult,” DiNapoli said.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he may take more steps soon to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including ordering the closure of most businesses, but he hasn't made that decision yet.

The governor, trying to tamp down rumors spreading on social media, also said he has no plans at this time to quarantine any cities in the state.

Just a few hours later, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said city residents should be prepared in the next 48 hours to possibly shelter in place. But he said he won’t give the order without consulting with the governor.