Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that a second statewide shutdown is possible in January but that New Yorkers still had enough time to prevent another pause.
“Anything is possible,” Cuomo said. “If New Yorkers step up their game and hospitals do their duty we might not have a shutdown.”
For days, the governor has warned that if new cases of the virus and the state’s overall positivity rate aren’t knocked down he will be forced to order a second full shutdown similar to what New Yorkers experienced in the spring.
On Wednesday, state health officials reported a statewide positivity rate with micro clusters of 5.86% and a positivity rate with micro clusters of 6.21% for Tuesday, Dec. 15. Hospitalizations due to the virus jumped by 115 on Tuesday to 6,097, and the number of New Yorkers in intensive care units went up by 33 to 1,098.
In New York City, Staten Island remains the borough with the highest rate of infection with a positivity rate of 5.30%, according to state data from Tuesday. Queens comes in second place with a positivity rate of 4.77% followed by the Bronx which state data indicates has a positivity rate of 4.46% and then Brooklyn with a positivity rate of 4.20%. Manhattan’s positivity rate is far below the other boroughs — 2.77%.
Cuomo said Wednesday that state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is sending a letter to all hospitals ordering them to shift to crisis mode management which would require them to shift patients to neighboring facilities when needed to prevent overburdening one particular hospital in any system.
“This was the lesson from the spring at Elmhurst Hospital,” said the letter from Commissioner Zucker to hospitals.” Corona and the Elmhurst neighborhoods in Queens were a COVID hot spot and overwhelmed Elmhurst Hospital. However, the Health & Hospitals system had other hospitals in their own system with additional capacity that were not utilized on a timely basis. Once a patient is admitted, it is often difficult to transfer them. Patients must be diverted prior to admission. This should include instructions to local ambulance providers as to which hospitals they should bring patients.”
As new cases of the virus continued to increase, the governor directed hospitals to increase their capacity by 25% and were again ordered to expand capacity by an additional 25% and cancel all elective surgeries on Dec. 11. Now the state is asking hospitals to be prepared to increase staffed bed capacity by 15% within 72 hours , the letter explains.
The letter adds that hospitals must notify the state Department of Health if they can not able to increase staffed bed capacity by 15% based on the projected statistical rate of hospitalization increases in the hospital’s surrounding areas over the next three weeks.
The three weeks notice will help the state determine if regional shutdowns are necessary. Last week, Governor Cuomo said regions will be placed into “red zones” and order to shutdown its hospitalization rate based on a seven-day average projects that hospital capacity will reach 90% in three weeks.
As lower regions of the state prepare to be hit with a blizzard, Cuomo assured New Yorkers that the inclement weather has not delayed any shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to storage centers and hospitals.
On Sunday, Long Island Jewish Medical Center nurse Sandra Lindsay became the first person in the state to receive the vaccine. About 4,000 vaccinations have been administered in the state since then, according to Commissioner Zucker. The state has received about 87,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far and is slated to get up to 80,000 additional doses for nursing home residents and staff within the next few days.
On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo’s senior advisor Larry Schwartz told reporters the state tentatively scheduled to receive 346,000 doses of Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22, pending FDA approval which is expected to come on Friday. In order to expedite vaccine distribution, Governor Cuomo announced the state will set up regional vaccination hubs led by local hospital systems.
Hospital systems must develop a distribution plan in partnership with community leaders with the goal of beginning the distribution process once the state has enough vaccine doses to enter Phase 2 of its distribution plan, in which health care workers and New Yorkers with underlying medical conditions will be inoculated. Hospital systems have until the first week of January to submit their proposed plans to the state for approval with Phase 2 likely to start late next month.