NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a revamped strategy to deal with New York’s surging coronavirus cases on Monday with a focus on avoiding an overwhelmed health care system.
More than 3,500 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, a growing number that the governor warned could lead to renewed shutdowns on a scale not seen since the spring.
“We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system … you will see serious stress on the hospital system,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in Manhattan.
Likening the state’s efforts to war, the governor said part of the new strategy is to focus on hospitalizations and hospital capacity.
Hospital systems will need to identify retired doctors and nurses that could be tapped to help alleviate overburdened staff and come up with a plan to shift patients to avoid overcrowding. They must also plan to add 50% capacity and ensure personal protective equipment stockpiles are available.
Elective surgeries are being halted in upstate Erie County as of Friday, with similar actions possible elsewhere as infections rise post-Thanksgiving, Cuomo said.
Several county executives, health care industry leaders and Mayor de Blasio praised the governor’s plan as they joined the presser via video.
New metrics including hospitalization rates, death rates, and hospital capacity will be used to tweak the state’s current color-coded microcluster strategy. Parts of the city, including much of Staten Island where an emergency field hospital recently reopened, are already designated as “orange” and “yellow” zones.
Despite his warning that shutdowns are likely coming, Cuomo said he wants to keep schools open, particularly kindergarten through eighth grade and applauded the city for coming up with a plan to keep school buildings open after closing two weeks ago.
The governor again repeated that small gatherings and the holidays pose the biggest risk in the coming weeks.
“The small gathering spread is now the number one spreader, about 65% of all cases. This is a dramatic shift,” he said. “Part of it is the holidays. it’s what happens during holidays. Part of it is reduced social options. I can’t go to the bar and hang out. I can’t go to the restaurant and hang out. I can’t go to the movie theater and hang out. Come over to my house and we’ll hang out. It’s just an adaptation of social behavior to the circumstances.”
New York has limited gatherings to 10 people in their homes, a rule that has been widely criticized.
The governor defended the measure, noting that several other states have similar mandates in place, and said the state will roll out a new public education campaign to drive home the message.
“This is where the spread is coming from,” Cuomo said. “We have to communicate this now to people the way we communicated masks. Seemingly the safest place, my home, my table, my family. Yeah, even that place is not safe.
“This is not government being overly dramatic. These are just facts,” he added.
The state expects an uptick in cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving as millions traveled to see family despite warning from state and federal officials against get-togethers.
The governor said it’s not just the coming Thanksgiving surge, he is also concerned about Christmas, Hanukkah and the entire holiday season as family and social gatherings increase.
“COVID is the Grinch. Think of it that way. The COVID Grinch is an opportunist, and the COVID Grinch sees this as the season of viral transmission,” he said.
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