New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new slew of emergency measures as COVID-related hospitalizations rise across the state. In a scene reminiscent of this spring, when Cuomo appeared on live television every day to update the public on what was then a new pandemic, the governor announced “a new phase in the war against COVID” on Monday.
Cuomo’s comprehensive plan lists several steps designed to ensure that hospitals can readily attend to a massive surge of COVID-19 cases. As part of the plan, the governor is urging hospitals to seek retired nurses and doctors in case of staff shortages. (In early spring, medical professionals from out-of-state were deployed to assist in New York’s early outbreak. But almost every state in the country is now facing rising caseloads, which means most medics are required to stay put).
Additionally, Cuomo has directed hospitals to develop emergency field plans, and to prepare to shore up bed capacity. Furthermore, in western New York’s Erie County, all elective surgeries must be halted by Friday. Similar measures could take effect in other areas of the state, depending on the virus’ path.
During his press briefing, the governor did not mince words, using military imagery to describe the urgency of the moment. “It’s a war in terms of preparation and mobilization,” he warned.
“We learned from this nightmare”
Just in the month of November, the number of New Yorkers seeking hospital treatment for COVID has more than tripled. On the first of November, 1,125 individuals were in hospital as a result of the coronavirus. By this Sunday, that number had grown to 3,532. And while that number is distant from the height of New York’s outbreak this spring, Cuomo wants to ensure that the state does not even approach such levels.
“We are not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” he said. “If a hospital does get overwhelmed, there will be a state investigation.”
Still, the governor wants to avoid the massive, statewide lockdowns that defined the earlier part of this year. Stay-at-home orders in New York attempted to spare hospitals from overwhelming, but like most Americans, New Yorkers have grown weary of such severe measures. But the winter season presents unique challenges that were not apparent during the warming days of spring. Cuomo warned that the holidays and indoor social gatherings during the dark days of winter may lead to a massive uptick in COVID cases. Nevertheless, he has resisted the threat of a statewide stay-at-home order.
Instead, Cuomo is opting for a “micro-cluster” approach. That entails targeting communities where positive test rates are particularly high. Additionally, Cuomo said that he would look at regional hospitalization rates, death rates, and available hospital beds in determining proper lockdown measures. He also called upon New York’s major hospital networks to prepare for a long dark winter, asking them to learn from the lessons of this spring, and to spread patients between individual sites where necessary.
“We lived this nightmare, we learned from this nightmare, we are going to correct for the lessons we learned during this nightmare,” Cuomo concluded.