NY Entering New COVID Phase; Hospital Capacity, Staffing Now Top Concern

NY Entering New COVID Phase; Hospital Capacity, Staffing Now Top Concern
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY—In response to rising COVID hospitalizations throughout the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that the state is entering a new phase in its “war against COVID.” The governor and the New York State Department of Health are issuing directives that focus on a new strategy geared to ensuring sufficient hospital capacity throughout the state in response to an expected holiday surge in cases and hospitalizations.

The governor said that COVID hospitalizations statewide have risen from 891 in June to 3,532, including 452 in the Mid-Hudson region, on Sunday, Nov. 29. He blamed small at home gatherings as the chief cause of the recent increase in COVID spread statewide. He said that small at home gatherings account for 65% of the current positive new cases statewide.

“We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system,” Cuomo said. “And if those numbers (COVID hospitalizations) continue to increase, and we expect they will, you will see serious stress on the hospital system.”

After discussions with health care executives and county government officials over the weekend, the governor announced a new strategy geared at ensuring hospital capacity, including adequate staff and PPE equipment. The governor announced that elective surgeries will be banned as of this Friday in Erie County.

Among the directives include requiring hospital networks to balance patient load between their hospitals and to prepare plans to organize field hospitals that will add 50% patient bed capacity. He also is asking hospitals to contact retired nurses and doctors about their availability in the coming weeks.

“I am more concerned about the staffing shortage than the beds,” the governor related.

The governor said that he expects a dramatic increase in COVID cases from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and expects similar spikes from the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and New Year’s holidays that will keep positivity rates and hospitalizations at high rates until mid-January 2021. The positivity rate and new cases will stabilize then, but at a higher rate, the governor predicted. In the interim, he left open the possibility that further yellow, orange and red zone designations would be issued, putting additional restrictions on those areas due to high positivity rates. In a worst-case scenario, he did say one option could be to reimpose a statewide lockdown (NY on Pause).

“You won’t see an end to this until we reach critical mass (on vaccinations),” Cuomo added, which he expects won’t be reached until the late spring or early summer of 2021.

He related that the state will also be working on a vaccination delivery program, noting that the first vaccinations could be administered in the next few weeks in New York State.

The COVID positivity rate on Sunday was 4.57% and there were 54 deaths statewide.

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