Cuomo: Hospitals the most important battlefield in ‘war’ on COVID-19

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new series of steps as New York enters the next phase of its “war” against COVID-19.

Keeping hospitals from getting overwhelmed will be front and center in that fight, he said.

“It’s a different phase we’re entering now,” the governor said. “I think of this as a war.”

The governor said the hospitalization rate, death rate and available hospital beds and staff will all be new factors in determining micro-cluster zones across New York, where the statewide positivity rate is now at 4.57%. The metrics used to determine when hospitals enter the focus zones will be determined in the coming days, he said.

“The hospital rate is increasing dramatically,” Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor shared hospitalization statistics that show a growing number of new patients in all regions across the state, which he said will make it more difficult for resources to be shared from one region to another, as was done during the initial COVID-19 surge in the spring. He said hospitals will again be asked to increase bed capacity by 50%.

The governor is also asking hospitals to begin recruiting retired doctors and nurses to help with staff burnout and overload.

There are currently 3,532 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in New York State, Mr. Cuomo said. He feared that if the state does not focus its efforts on monitoring hospital conditions, some health care systems could become overwhelmed.

The governor said that all hospital systems within New York — including Northwell Health and Stony Brook University, which operate hospitals on the East End — must now begin practicing patient load balancing. Under the mandate, the state is requiring systems to make sure the number of COVID-19 patients is spread equally among individual hospitals.

“It’s in the patient’s best interest,” the governor said. “We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospital systems again.”

Mr. Cuomo also said that if certain hospital systems become overwhelmed the state will mandate load balancing between systems.

The Suffolk County Department of Health reported 233 local hospitalizations on Sunday, including 47 ICU patients. There were 882 hospital beds available in the county as of Sunday.

Mr. Cuomo said it will be another week before the state can see just how much Thanksgiving gatherings exacerbated the COVID-19 spread. He said state data shows small social gatherings are the cause of 65% of new cases.

The governor added that limiting social gatherings, increasing testing statewide, keeping schools open for students in grades K-8 and working to get the state vaccinated are the other areas of concentration in this next phase of the fight against the coronavirus.

“That is going to be the weapon that will end the war,” Mr. Cuomo said of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor also said he could bring back the NY on Pause economic shutdown if the number of cases continues to grow at sharp rates. He said recent restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and personal care centers has helped limit the spread. On Monday, he ordered elective surgeries to be halted this week in one upstate county.