coronavirus in ny

NY Unveils 5-Strategy Winter COVID Plan; Includes Emergency Hospital Protocols

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a multi-strategy COVID-19 plan of action to combat the virus throughout the state of New York in the winter months -- particularly after the expected spike of cases following the holidays.
  • During his Monday coronavirus press briefing, the governor introduced the 5-strategy plan that will focus on hospital capacity, testing, schools, safety campaign and a thorough vaccination plan.
  • "Literally every region is dealing with a hospital issue now," Cuomo said. Hospitalizations surged past 3,500 over the weekend, an alarming volume not seen in New York since May.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a multi-strategy COVID-19 plan of action to combat the virus throughout the state of New York in the winter months -- particularly after the expected spike of cases following the holidays.

During his Monday coronavirus press briefing, the governor introduced the 5-strategy plan that will focus on hospital capacity, testing, schools, a safety campaign and a thorough vaccination plan.

"We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system. And if those numbers continue to increase, which we expect they will, you will see serious stress [within the hospital]," Cuomo said Monday.

According to the governor, the state will prioritize and shift its focus to the number of hospitalizations and hospital capacity by adding to the state's yellow, orange and red zone designation the hospitalization rate, death rate, case rate, available hospital beds in that community, available ICU beds, available staff, the patient load management of that community, or as Cuomo described "how effectively they are dealing with the patient load," as well as PPE and equipment availability.

"Everyone remembers the nightmare of what we went through with PPE and equipment," Cuomo said referencing the trouble the state had in obtaining PPE during the spring peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said the state will "set specific metrics for each one of those factors. I want to wait and see what the numbers are post-Thanksgiving. We don’t know that the Thanksgiving effect has been yet….we’re also talking to the hospital administrators across the state. We want to know exactly where they are today with their capacity, with their PPE, etc. We learned this lesson the hard way."

Additionally, Cuomo said if there is "a real hospitalization crisis we could potentially do NY PAUSE" once more.

"Literally every region is dealing with a hospital issue now," Cuomo said. Hospitalizations surged past 3,500 over the weekend, an alarming volume not seen in New York since May.

EMERGENCY HOSPITAL MEASURES

The governor also announced the state will initiate emergency hospital measures immediately. The measures are:

  • Every hospital has to identify retired nurses and doctors now. "We’re already experiencing staff shortages.  Staff just get exhausted after a while. They’ve had a horrendous year. To now go through this again with emergency rooms and a high number of COVID patients coming in...we did this last time and it worked very well," Cuomo said;
  • Stop elective surgery in Erie County starting Friday. "Erie County has the most critical situation in the state. So Erie County must stop elective surgery; Catholic hospitals in Erie County voluntarily stopped elective surgery just to be responsible. I thank them. It’s now mandatory….Let's start to free up those hospital beds. If things continue to get worst. We’ll stop elective surgery in other parts of the state also," the governor said;
  • Individual hospital network load balancing is mandated as of Monday. "There are hospital systems in the state that have a number of hospitals in their system – and they can be private or they can be public….it is mandatory as of today that they balance the load within their system... So you distribute the patients among your hospitals in your system. The nightmare we went through last time was a hospital would be overwhelmed, but that system had other hospitals that had capacity," Cuomo said. "If a hospital gets overwhelmed there will be a state investigation and if the result of that investigation is that they did not distribute the patients, that will be malpractice on their part. This was a serious issue last time."
  • Prepare emergency field hospital plans region-wide;
  • Add 50 percent capacity to each hospital. "We did this last time. It was highly effective," the governor said;
  • Prepare to implement statewide “surge and flex," which would move patients among [different hospital] systems;
  • Prepare to staff emergency field hospitals;
  • Confirm PPE stockpiles.

According to Cuomo, the second strategy in the state's plan of action calls for an increase in testing.

Additionally, Cuomo pointed out, that local communities must have a balanced distribution of testing among healthcare workers, nursing homes, essential workers, schools, anyone who wants a test, etc.

The third strategy, the governor said, will work on maintaining schools open in a safe manner, with a particular focus on special education and k-8.

This strategy calls for establishing sustainable ongoing testing in schools for long-term operation.

According to Cuomo, experts reviewed this plan and say it’s the most advanced and comprehensive state testing protocol for schools nationwide and globally. “No state has the testing school protocol that we have in place. No state," he said.

Local districts can close at levels under state mandatory closure rule, but the state advices to keep k-8 open whenever safe.

Since small gathering spread is now the No. 1 spreader of all cases, Cuomo said, the state will launch a public campaign on safety.

According to the governor, 65 percent of all cases are all connected to small gatherings.

"The valve no longer controls the spread," Cuomo said, effectively conceding that throttling indoor dining, gyms and other indoor activities doesn't work anymore. "Either people are going to hear it and get it, or they're not."

Cuomo said that a vaccination program could start in the next few weeks. However, the state's program will focus on three pillars: fairness, equity and safety.

Cuomo said that the state will implement an inclusive vaccination process that will focus on outreach to Black, Hispanic and poor communities -- all of which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic.

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