New York is moving to expand hospital capacity amid a late-year surge in coronavirus cases that is only expected to grow through the holiday season.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced the framework of a winter time plan for the pandemic with the goals of expanding testing for schools and essential workers as well as prioritizing K through 8 schools to remain open.
But hospitalizations remain a key concern for the governor as 3,532 people are now hospitalized due to COVID-19. Fifty-four people have died in the last 24 hours due to COVID-19 and the state's positive rate in the last day has reached 4.57%, Cuomo said.
Already state officials are taking some actions to free up hospital space: In Erie County, where COVID cases have been on a sharper upswing than they were in the spring, elective surgeries will end beginning on Friday.
COVID cases are rising around the country and in New York and are expected to crest through the holiday season.
New York will once again hit a "pause" button for an area -- a closure of non-essential businesses and strict limits on gatherings -- if a hospital system is about to be overwhelmed. Essentially, Cuomo is adding hospitalization rates to the metrics governing business closures in a region.
A specific metric for hospitalizations in a region is yet to be set as the state awaits the expected rise in COVID cases this week from Thanksgiving, Cuomo said.
But he is more concerned, the governor said, in a drop off in available medical staff.
"We're better prepared and we're going to be smarter in the management of it," Cuomo said.
The state has taken a targeted "cluster" approach for closures, focusing on specific areas where COVID cases have been spiking. Field hospitals will also be set up to handle the overflow.
The move to expand hospital capacity in the state is reminiscent of the push from the spring to build up beds and ventilators as coronavirus cases were rising during the first weeks of the pandemic in New York.
And unlike the spring, COVID cases are rising statewide, making a shifting of resources difficult if not impossible.
"This is the problem. We are seeing the rise in hospitalizations all across the state," Cuomo said. "We will have a limited ability to bring resources from upstate to downstate or from downstate to upstate."
Meanwhile, a public education campaign will begin in the state meant to highlight the risk of "livingroom spread" -- contracting COVID-19 by spending time with a person in their household.