Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new phase in New York State's "war" against COVID-19 that includes educating the public about not gathering at their homes.
Just after Thanksgiving weekend in his regular press conference, the governor said that small gatherings are the no. 1 spreader of COVID-19 and account for 65 percent of all cases.
And right now, the hospitalization rate is going up "dramatically," from 900 patients in June to 3,500 this week, Cuomo said—and that's before we see the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings.
Seeing this, he advised New Yorkers to stop having company over.
"Part of it is the holidays ... part of it is reduced social options—it's an adaptation of social behavior to the circumstance," Cuomo said. "I understand that people don’t like restrictions and have COVID fatigue."
He said that tightening restrictions across the state, like re-closing parts of the economy, won't control the spread because the spread is largely happening in living rooms. Unfortunately, there's no way of really enforcing what people do in their homes.
"The government doesn’t have the ability to monitor it," he added. "We have to communicate this to people in the same way we communicated masks ... all you can do is educate people and hope they hear you when you ask them to wear a mask. It's public education."
That education component is just one of several key actions the state is going to take during the winter to combat the spread. Cuomo said that across the "season of the COVID Grinch," there will be a new battle plan, so to speak.
The state will now begin focusing on the number of hospitalizations and capacity at hospitals by requiring hospital networks and individual hospitals to distribute patients so that no one hospital is overwhelmed. To do this, the state will begin identifying retired nurses and doctors for hospitals experiencing staff shortages, allowing patients to be moved across hospitals and hospital networks (from New York-Presbyterian to Mt. Sinai, for example), preparing emergency field hospitals to add 50 percent capacity to them, and confirm PPE stockpiles, among other things.
We are laser-focused on ensuring enough hospital capacity as COVID surges.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) November 30, 2020
Today @HealthNYGov is initiating emergency hospital measures.
Hospitals are directed to identify retired staff, make plans to add 50% bed capacity, confirm they have a 90-day PPE stockpile, and more. pic.twitter.com/6XzF4jXFxY
Cuomo is also adding an "emergency stop provision," where if there were a hospitalization crisis, there could potentially be another New York Pause—a full stop or move of one zone to another (like from yellow to orange), he said.
Testing will be increased and schools will be kept open (with weekly testing in the orange and red zones) as well, he said. He expects a vaccine to be rolled out in late spring or early summer at the earliest, but sees it as the "weapon that will end the war."
For that, he says the state is working on an inclusive process to make sure Black, brown and poor communities are given access to the vaccine on the same level as everyone else.
For now, he expects to see numbers increase through the holiday season through January, when he thinks it'll stabilize.
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