NYC Health and Hospital mobile Units offers free COVID testing in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. – Bronx, New York: USA – November 20, 2020 (Shutterstock)
By Joseph De Avila, MSN
New York could implement regionalized shutdowns again if hospitals approach capacity limits, under new measures introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo designed to prevent surging cases of Covid-19 from overwhelming the state’s health-care system.
The state’s new metrics for shutting down regions will be driven by the hospitalization rates of that area, Mr. Cuomo said Monday. If the state determines one of New York’s 10 regions will hit 90% capacity of its hospital space within three weeks, based on a seven-day average of hospitalization rates, that region will shut down, except for essential services such as pharmacies and grocery stores, the governor said.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, also ordered the state’s hospitals to increase their 54,000-bed capacity by 25% in order to accommodate an influx of Covid-19 cases expected to continue to mount through mid-January. The state is also calling on retired nurses and doctors to return to the field to help with that increasing patient load, and Mr. Cuomo said he believes these efforts will draw about 20,000 additional health-care workers.
“We will manage the hospital system as well as it can be managed, but if you are going to overwhelm the hospital system, then we have no choice but to go to close down,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference. “Overwhelming the hospital system means people die on a gurney in a hallway.”
The new shutdown metrics come as New York reported Monday a statewide seven-day average positivity rate of 4.9%. The rate was 1.6% on Nov. 1. About 4,600 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized, compared to about 19,000 during the state’s peak in the spring.
Mr. Cuomo said the state will also begin tying regional hospitalization rates to indoor-dining restrictions. The state will shut down indoor dining as early as early as next week in New York City if hospitalization rates in the city continue climbing over the next five days, the governor said. The capacity limits for indoor dining will drop from 50% to 25% in other parts of the state if hospitalization rates in those regions continue rising over the next five days, he said.
Mr. Cuomo said he thinks it is unlikely hospitalization rates will stop rising in New York City over the next five days, given the current trajectory in the city, indicating that indoor dining will likely close at some point. But it is too early to tell if New York City or any other region in the state will have to go into a full shutdown, he said.
“Do I think we hit hospitalization criticality and have to close down? I pray no, I hope no, I hope New Yorkers get it before we get there,” Mr. Cuomo said.
About 70% of people testing positive for Covid-19 are catching the disease in small indoor gatherings, Mr. Cuomo said. Those gatherings will drive infection rates higher throughout the holiday season, he said.
“If we don’t mitigate well and listen to the public-health measures that we need to follow, then we can start to see things get really bad in the middle of January,“ said Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, who joined the governor at his news conference. “The middle of January could be a really dark time for us.”