Shutdowns could be on the horizon in NYC again as Cuomo, Fauci eyes rising hospitalization rates

FILE PHOTO:  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Governor Andrew Cuomo is ordering 215 hospitals across New York State to prepare an additional 25% capacity in order to handle the caseload of coming COVID-19 surges in the coming weeks — increases that could result in a return to new “pauses” on New York life.

Monday’s news conference hosted by the governor also virtually featured Dr. Anthony Fauci in a showcase of the state’s latest hospital plan with a call for the public to avoid family gatherings going into the holiday season as New York state hit a 4.71% positivity rate on Sunday.

According to Cuomo, if a high statewide hospitalization rate is sustained over a course of five days, the state may order indoor dining to close entirely in New York City. Whether or not these measures would be lifted prior to the vaccine hitting critical mass was not something Cuomo said he could comment on at this time.

“The Jacob Javits Center, for example, we did 2,000 beds. Dr. Fauci, it looked like a field hospital in an army, you just saw an ocean of cots. And I just hope we never have to get to that point. Today, the Department of Health is going to issue an order saying hospitals have to increase their bed capacity 25%,” Cuomo said. “We can issue up to 50%, they can do that physically but we’re only going to go to 25% because we don’t have a capacity criticality at this moment.”

Critical hospital capacity will be considered at 90%, Cuomo said.

According to Fauci, mid-January is when the country will begin to see the effects of holiday travelers on infection rates, especially with people joining families for Thanksgiving, boosting the spread, and then gathering again for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years.

“With regard to the issue of the holiday spread and the peaks are going to be superimposed upon each other so you would expect the full length of the travel and the family setting gatherings with friends that you alluded to as being a problem,” Fauci said. “You’d expect that the effect of the Thanksgiving surge would be probably another week and a week-and-a-half from now, because it’s usually two-and-a-half weeks, from the time of the event. The problem is, that’s going to come right up to the beginning of the Christmas, Hanukkah potential surge so you have a surge upon a surge, and then before you can handle that more people are going to travel over Christmas.”

With vaccines being made available to a large chunk of the population by April, May, and June, Fauci agreed with Cuomo’s assessment that convincing the public to accept the tincture formulated by Moderna and Pfizer with up to half the population expressing skepticism about the treatment.

Two doses will be required 28 days apart, meaning that summer will be about the time a significant portion of the public is immunized at a critical mass of 75% to 80%.